Sheep flock insured against threat of lynx attacks

The Lynx UK Trust has secured a deal with Lloyds of London that will insure all sheep, pets and humans in the country against lynx attacks. 

The Trust has come to blows with farming unions and livestock organisations since applying for an application from Natural England to reintroduce the predator into the Kielder Forest region.

Farming bodies said the animals would threaten livestock numbers, but the Lynx UK Trust argued that, in fact, it would benefit the industry financially by capitalising on the novelty of the animal and attracting tourists.

Natural England is yet to grant access for the reintroduction of lynx, although the Trust remains confident it will be allowed.

If it is given the go-ahead, six lynx will be set free into the area between England and Scotland. The Lynx UK Trust has promised above-market-rate compensation if any attacks on sheep do occur, alongside grants to farmers to improve sheep welfare and research into reducing sheep predation by all species.

To give the industry piece of mind, the Trust announced an agreement with a specialist division of Lloyds of London – Lloyds Syndicate ARK Speciality Programs. Under the agreement, the entire sheep population will be insured against lynx attacks throughout the trial period, should it be allowed. Attacks on humans and animals are also covered under the insurance policy.

“Some farmers have suggested it will be impossible to fund a compensation programme, even though in reality such funds rarely cost more than €1,000 a year on the continent,” said Dr Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific advisor of the Lynx Trust. Lynx have already been reintroduced into the Harz area of Germany.

“This will hopefully give them a great deal of confidence if the largest insurance market in the world is offering to cover any kind of attacks on livestock by lynx during a trial.”

The insurance scheme was proposed by Richard Bryant, head of ARK Speciality. Since the proposals came into fruition, Bryant has taken an interest in lynx reintroduction and supported the possibility of a trial going forward.

“We’re excited and privileged to be working in partnership with the Lynx UK Trust to successfully reintroduce the lynx, and I hope the insurance cover will provide sound financial security for the trust so they will be able to generously compensate farmers if any of their sheep are injured or killed,” he explained.

“Having assessed all the science and research on lynx predation, we’re very confident that sheep attacks will be rare. So if our support can help make a trial reintroduction practical, it’s a great opportunity for us to do something really positive. I believe this is the first time insurance has been used to assist a reintroduction project in the UK, so we’re very excited about it.”

If the lynx do get reintroduced, it will be for an initial trial period over five years and closely monitored with satellite tracking and other tools to assess if they fit into the UK ecosystem.

O’Donoghue added: “The extensive cover provided by Lloyds of London is a massive game-changer in our campaign to bring lynx back to the UK where they rightly belong. I honestly now find it very hard to see any reason why we shouldn’t get a licence from Natural England; there can be no question that compensation is now affordable and we still stand by our promises for farmers’ grants and anti-predation studies. We can make this work for everyone.”

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