Occasionally, amidst the dross, the dreadful, the dreary, the drastic and the otherwise inimical, the EU has a bright idea. Sadly its own dissolution is not amongst them, but one may at least applaud Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora as imaginative.

Article 22 has at its heart the possibility of re-establishing those species which were eliminated by our forefathers and no longer grace our countryside:

In implementing the provisions of this Directive, Member States shall:

(a) study the desirability of re-introducing species in Annex IV that are native to their territory where this might contribute to their conservation, provided that an investigation, also taking into account experience in other Member States or elsewhere, has established that such re-introduction contributes effectively to re-establishing these species at a favourable conservation status and that it takes place only after proper consultation of the public concerned;

In terms of mammals, this covers such as the European beaver, the lynx, wild boar, the European elk or moose, the grey wolf and even the brown bear. Wild boar, of course, are by now ell-established thanks to the activities of animal rights nutters who have broken into farms and released them, so that has happened without the requisite consultation. Wolves are more contentious, as you might imagine. Beaver are not far off from a release programme.

This in The Times tells us of Hercules and Hulda, a gentleman and lady Elk from Sweden, who have lately been flown in from Sweden by Paul Lister, a gentleman philanthropist who is at the forefront of the campaign to reintroduce native species that have become extinct. The elk seems to have been wiped out as long ago as 1000 BC or so and may not have been really widespread even then, but hopefully these two are the harbingers of a new era of elk gracing our wild spaces.

Other species have been reintroduced with great success. The White-tailed Sea-eagle has been firmly re-established on the west coast of Scotland and is undergoing reintroduction on the east coast, though there has been a recent setback. The Huntsman is a shooting man at heart and understands the place which it has in any rural economy but quite how anyone who calls himself a real countryman could bring himself to shoot one of the magnificent creatures is beyond him.

The Huntsman wishes Hercules and Hulda well.