Greens are being urged to make a trial project to reintroduce lynx to Scotland, as well as the widespread reintroduction of beavers, a key part of any future co-operation agreement with the SNP government.
Talks are taking place between the two parties over the possibility of a formal deal – which Nicola Sturgeon has already indicated could potentially include the appointment of Green ministers.
As discussions over a deal – which would not be a full coalition – continue, campaigners said including a commitment on rewilding would be seen as a sign the Greens could achieve “real change”.
The Scottish Rewilding Alliance noted that the Greens’ manifesto for the May election supported “the gradual reintroduction of species native to Scotland where appropriate and in co-operation with local communities, including a lynx reintroduction trial”.
The Eurasian lynx was driven to extinction in Scotland between 500 and 1,000 years ago.
The creatures have now been reintroduced to some parts of Europe, including in areas used for farming, hunting, forestry and tourism, with research suggesting the Highlands could be home for around 400 of the big cats.
Campaigners argue such a move would help restore balance in nature, by controlling roe deer numbers – with these being the lynx’s preferred prey.
Scottish Rewilding Alliance convener Steve Micklewright told PA Scotland: “The Scottish Greens have committed to restoring nature through rewilding, including a trial lynx reintroduction.
“If they reach an agreement with the SNP that includes this commitment, many will see this as a sign they can achieve real change through co-operation.
“A trial reintroduction of lynx will have very strong public support and there would be no clearer signal that Scotland intends to become the world’s first rewilding nation.”
The Scottish Rewilding Alliance, a coalition of more than 20 environmental organisations, is calling on the Scottish Government to declare Scotland the world’s first “rewilding nation” – with rewilding taking place within 30% of the country’s land and seas within a decade.
Polling for the group showed more than half (52%) of Scots support a pilot reintroduction of lynx, with just 19% opposed to this.
While beavers were reintroduced in Scotland in 2009, the poll showed 66% supported their wider relocation – with campaigners claiming there are a possible 100,000 hectares of potential beaver habitat in Scotland.
Mr Micklewright said that local communities and landowners wanted the “benefits” of beaver reintroduction, such as reduced flooding.
He said: “Public opinion is in favour of beaver relocation and we have huge areas where they could be moved to. The Greens must ensure that this can happen.”
Scottish Greens environment spokesman Mark Ruskell said: “We won’t provide a running commentary on co-operation talks with government, but clearly we committed to restoring Scotland’s natural environment in our manifesto, and we recognise that means urgent and transformative action, including reintroducing lost species.”