May 26, 2008

Following a 400 Year Absence, Beavers Return

For the first time in over 400 years, the European beaver will be reintroduced to Scotland in the spring of 2009, according to the Scottish Government.

Michael Russell, the Environment Minister, quipped, "This is an exciting development for wildlife enthusiasts all over Scotland and beyond. Four beaver families will be caught in Norway in the fall of 2008, put into quarantine for six months, and released into one of five lochs in Knapdale, Argyll on a trial basis.

According to Mr. Russell, during the 16th century the beaver was hunted to extinction in Scotland. He is "delighted that this wonderful species will be making a comeback." For the UK, this will be the first formal reintroduction of a native mammal into the wild.

Russell stated, "Other parts of Europe, with a similar landscape to Scotland, have reintroduced beavers and evidence has shown that they can also have positive ecological benefits, such as creating and maintaining a habitat hospitable to other species."

Russell expects tourists to flock from the British Isles and abroad to Knapdale to see the "charismatic, resourceful little mammals".

Scottish Natural Heritage will monitor the five year project run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological society of Scotland. Scottish Natural Heritage will gauge the progress of the beavers over those five years to determine the impact on the local economy and environment. Following their evaluation the groups will consider a wider reintroduction of the beavers.

The director of policy for Scottish Natural Heritage, Professor Colin Galbraith believes this is an excellent decision. Although in isolated cases these beavers have been seen in the wild, they are generally captured and taken to zoos. Galbraith stated, "For the first time we will have the opportunity to see how beavers fit into the Scottish countryside in a planned and managed trial."  In his words, "No other beaver reintroduction project in Europe has gone through such a long, and thorough, process of preparation, assessment and examination.

Chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, David Windmill, doted, "It is a strong and visible sign of the Scottish Government's commitment to carrying out conservation in Scotland and re-building our depleted biodiversity."

Chairman of the Scottish Beaver Trial Steering Group, Allan Bantick, deemed the beaver reintroduction a "historic moment" for wildlife conservation. He claimed, "By bringing these useful creatures back to their native environment we will have the chance to restore a missing part of our wetland ecosystems and re-establish much needed natural processes."

Despite all the positive feedback, the challenge will lie, according to Simon Milne, chief executive of the Scottish Wildlife trust, in the pursuit by license holders to raise the necessary funds for the project.


Photo by Per Harald Olsen - Wikipedia


On the Net:

Scottish Beavers

Scottish Wildlife Trust

Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Scottish Government

Scottish Natural Heritage