A BIG cat fight has split the organisation hoping to bring back the Eurasian lynx to Kielder Forest into two different factions.

A number of people working with the Lynx UK Trust, including scientists from the University of Cumbria, have broken away to establish their own group, to be called the Lynx Project, which they intend to set up as a charity.

They have written to local farmers and landowners saying that they wish to see more consultation with the Kielder and Tarset community before applying for a formal release license.

The schism stems from a disagreement between Lynx UK’s chief scientific adviser, Paul O’Donoghue, and other scientists working on the scheme, over whether to seek charitable status for the trust and also the timetable for applying for a licence for the five-year trial reintroduction.

The breakaway group, Lynx Project, wrote in its letter to local people: “Over the last two years a great deal of work has been completed, but in response to feedback from the community we have decided to extend the local consultation such that all sectors of society and key stakeholder groups can engage fully with the study and inform the license application.”

But earlier this week Mr O’Donoghue of Lynx UK, said it had decided to press ahead by officially lodging a licence application with Natural Englandwithin the next two months

Although he did not refer to the rift directly, he said: “We hope to be introducing you soon to the team that would take forward a trial reintroduction, if it is approved, and very much hope for that team to work with local and regional groups and educational organisations, involving them in studying the trial.”

However the breakaway Lynx Project said there had been a ‘difference of views’ regarding the approach to governance of the project and the approach to engaging with local stakeholders and organisations.