Queen should share Balmoral with lynx, beavers and bison as campaigners call for rewilding

·Royal Correspondent
·5-min read
Geraint Stone pulls his two-year-old son Arthur on his sledge across the snow-covered lawn in front of Balmoral Castle, Royal Deeside. The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for ice and snow across Scotland. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Queen's home in Balmoral, where campaigners say wolves could live in the surrounding land. (Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)

Campaigners are calling for the Queen to rewild her estates in Balmoral and Sandringham, suggesting beavers, lynx and even bison could roam the land.

Chris Packham, Rowan Williams and Kate Humble are among the signatories of an open letter to the Queen which urges her, as well as Prince Charles and Prince William, to consider rewilding their land as a "leaders of habitat restoration". 

Campaigners for Wild Card believe lynx, bison and wolves could be reintroduced in Balmoral, the Queen's private estate in Aberdeen. 

Beavers could call Sandringham, the Queen's Norfolk estate, home, they add. 

An accompanying petition by 38 Degrees has been signed by more than 70,000 people, while a survey carried out by the group found 62% of people were supportive of the idea of rewilding. 

The survey of 2,100 adults by Savanta ComRes also found nearly half (47%) of people would think more positively of the Royal Family if they rewilded their land, while only 8% said they'd think more negatively of them for doing so.

Red deer in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, which had an overnight temperature of minus 23.0C (minus 9.4F). The village, which is near Balmoral Castle, the summer residence of Queen Elizabeth II, recorded the lowest temperature in the UK in more than two decades, following an
Red deer in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, near Balmoral Castle, the summer residence of the Queen. (Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
October 1972:  Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh by a waterfall in the grounds of Balmoral Castle, Scotland. Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, purchased Balmoral Castle in 1846, and the small castle which stood in the 7,000 hectare wooded estate was redeveloped in the 1850s.The granite building was designed by Aberdeen architect William Smith with suggestions from Albert himself, who decided the interior decoration should represent a Highland shooting box with tartan or thistle chintzes, and walls decorated with trophies and weapons. Queen Victoria often visited the Highlands with her family, especially after Albertfs death in 1861, and Balmoral is still a popular retreat for the present royal family.  (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
The Queen and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh by a waterfall in the grounds of Balmoral Castle, in October 1972. There are calls to rewild parts of the land. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

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Professor James Bullock of the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology told Yahoo UK: "The vast landholdings owned by the Royals - amounting to 1.4% of the UK - have incredible opportunities for rewilding. Much of Balmoral (owned by by the Queen), and Dartmoor (owned by The Duchy of Cornwall), would naturally be covered in rare temperate rainforest. Today only tiny fragments remain.

"Today Balmoral is run as a sporting estate for activities such as deer stalking and grouse shooting. If rewilded, the Balmoral estate could see the re-introduction of lynx, beavers and wolves which would help stimulate the return of rich and diverse ecosystems. Bison or long horned cattle could also be released to take the ecological place of now extinct ancient aurochs.

"At the Queen’s privately owned Sandringham, pine marten, storks, beavers and red deer could find a thriving habitat if the land was returned to nature. Meanwhile in the Queen’s North Yorkshire moorlands estates - like the Goathland estate - majestic birds of prey such as the Golden Eagle would be perfect for re-introduction into a newly wilded landscape."

The letter from Wild Card cites research that suggests the area would be temperate rainforest if nature took its course.

It reads: "We are a rainforest nation bereft of its rainforests – and in desperate need of leadership that shows how it can be restored. Across Britain, in lands owned by the Royal estates, we could also see the restoration of flower-rich grasslands, bird-filled heathlands, swamps, fens, and meandering rivers."

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It continues: "We recognise that restoring ecosystems to a historical baseline will not always be possible. Self-willed ecosystems may take many centuries to find equilibrium and in certain circumstances a more active land management approach may achieve biodiversity and carbon capture benefits in the shorter timeframes demanded by today’s crises. As such, more research is needed to measure the comparative gains for people and planet of differing rewilding and restoration pathways. The Royal Estates could be instrumental in developing this evidence base and leading others."

Wild Card references the mental health benefits of access to wild nature, something which the Duchess of Cambridge has been passionate about for several years, and adds: "Collectively, we are in danger of forgetting the all-but-lost natural wonders of these lands. But today’s young people are urging us not to let this happen."

The letter finishes: "As our nation recovers from the COVID-19 crisis, and we look to the world outside our windows to nourish and inspire us, we call on you to lead the way in healing our land. We ask you to seize this moment to restore and rewild the Royal estates, bringing the hope of renewal and regrowth to the people of this country. Protect us, guide us, rewild us."

The letter comes as the Queen prepares to undertake several days of engagements across Scotland for Royal Week.

Usually she would host a garden party in Edinburgh, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, but she has had to postpone the event for a second year running because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It's the Queen's first trip to Scotland since the death of Prince Philip. Last summer they spent a week in Balmoral together before returning to Windsor Castle via Sandringham, their Norfolk home.

The campaign is being run by Wild Card, and calls not just on the Queen to rewild in Scotland but on wider royal land to be rewilded too.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JUNE 28: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attend The Ceremony of the Keys at The Palace Of Holyroodhouse on June 28, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Queen is visiting Scotland for Royal Week between Monday 28th June and Thursday 1st July 2021. (Photo by Samir Hussein - Pool/WireImage)
The Queen is back in Scotland this week for Royal Week. (Samir Hussein - Pool/WireImage)

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Other signatories of the letter include Josh O'Connor, who played Prince Charles in The Crown, broadcaster Anita Rani, and author Sir Michael Morpurgo.

The group defines rewilding as the process which "allow[s] untamed life to return to ecosystems and landscapes, such that they are once again sustained by the natural processes that created them in the first place". 

Megan Bentall, campaign manager at 38 Degrees, said: "The UK public are calling on the royal family to take more personal responsibility for tackling the biodiversity and climate crisis - by rewilding their lands."

Joel Scott-Halkes, Wild Card campaigner, said: "The royal family have spoken about their commitment to environmental issues time and time again. This is a fantastic opportunity to turn their words into action - by returning their lands to their natural form."

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