The new novel by Mandy Haggith - Bear Witness, out on 25 April – received a great reception when it was launched on Monday at a special Earth Day celebration of Scotland’s wildlife. The day of events, which took place in the spectacular setting of Glencanisp Lodge, near Lochinver, included a guided walk to the Inchnadamph Bone Caves, where bear bones have been found, confirming the animal's presence in the wild in Scotland in relatively recent times. Mandy is pictured here at the mouth of Bear Cave.
The day culminated in a debate by conservation experts about the reintroduction of large predators to Scotland, which is a major theme of Bear Witness. The notion of reintroducing animals such as bears, wolves and lynxes excites strong views on both sides of the argument, so the debate and Bear Witness launch attracted lots of media attention. Mandy was interviewed on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio show and the story appeared on the BBC website. It was also front-page news on The Press and Journal, and an article appeared in the Oban Times. A report on the debate and interview with Mandy was published on a second BBC article.
The debate, which took place after Mandy’s launch of Bear Witness, saw, the Scottish Wildlife Trust discussing the reintroduction of beavers to Scotland, and Roy Dennis shared his experiences of reintroducing ospreys, sea eagles and red kites, all persecuted to extinction in Scotland. Jim Crumley, author of The Last Wolf, talked about the possible return of wolves, and Mandy encouraged people to believe in the possibility of a future with bears – in reality, not just in fiction.
Mandy said: ‘The debate went really well - it was completely packed out and we had a thorough exploration of the potential for bringing back bears, wolves and lynx to Scotland. The event began in the morning with a children's event in the woods, with all the local primary school children learning about the animals that live in the woods now and those that lived here in the past. They enjoyed having the chance to think about whether they want lynx, bears and wolves back in the future - all but one (who has pet ducks!) want bears, lynx and wolves back.
‘We had a cracking debate in the evening. It was great to see so many people from the community discussing how this land could be inhabited again by the full quotient of animals that are native to it. For so long it belonged to a rich individual but it is now community-owned land, and the debate showed that there is a real appetite for a new vision for the landscape, and enthusiasm for sharing it with other animals like bears, lynx and wolves.’
The spectacular scenery alongside Loch Assynt, a remote, wooded area where bears, wolves and lynx once roamed.