The Sunday Times
July 04, 2004 Tycoon wants to breed ‘sheep friendly’ wolves Kenny Farquharson
SCOTLAND’S richest man is to fund a scientific study to introduce “sheep friendly” wolves in the Highlands.
Paul van Vlissingen — the millionaire owner of the 81,000-acre Letterewe estate in Wester Ross — has been fighting a personal crusade to re- introduce wolves and lynx as a natural way of keeping deer herds under control. However, the Dutch tycoon’s plan has faced stiff opposition from sheep farmers who fear the wild animals would attack their flocks.
The 63-year-old entrepreneur now intends to use part of his 1.4 billion fortune to fund research into how a wolves can be bred or trained not to kill sheep. He said the idea of trying to curb wolves’ natural instincts came to him while helping to set up animal sanctuaries in Africa. He noticed that wild predators such as big cats would only attack certain types of prey. “I asked myself: why is it that the tiger and the lion don’t like sheep, and wolves do like sheep? And is there any way you could breed a family of wolves that have a natural aversion to sheep?”
Van Vlissingen, who moved to Scotland 27 years ago, has tried to make his estate a shining example of ecological management — releasing sea eagles, managing a deer herd, planting a hardwood forest and protecting rare birds such as the red-throated diver. “Man has to start to learn living with other creatures around him and not exploit them. The wolf was here in Scotland until very recently.” The last wolf in Scotland is said to have been killed in 1743 near the River Findhorn in Moray.
Leading European experts in animal behaviour are sceptical that Van Vlissingen will succeed. Serge Daan, professor of behavioural biology at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, said there were major flaws in Van Vlissingen’s plan. However, he conceded that it might be possible to train wolves pups not to kill sheep. “It might be possible on the basis of an individual animal,” said Daan. “Much of adult animal behaviour is influenced by conditions in early life. But if you released these wolves into the Highlands, you could not pick up every new puppy and train it as well. The next generation would revert back to the old way.”(via the blatherskites)