20 environmental organisations call for the beaver to come home in Scotland

The group, which represents over a quarter of a million members, see beavers as a missing element in Scottish biodiversity, believing it is both ecologically and morally right to restore this keystone species. The group claims that the majority of Scotland’s people are ready and willing to live alongside beavers once again and that this strengthens Scotland’s reputation as a modern society that truly values its environment.

Beavers were hunted to extinction in Scotland about 400 years ago, and the UK is currently one of only seven European countries with no officially-sanctioned wild beaver population.

But in a scientific trial a group of 16 were introduced into lochs in Knapdale Forest in Argyll between 2009 and 2011, and monitored by scientists.While several died, others bred successfully and produced a litter of kits within a year of being set free.

In addition a population of beavers, now around 150 strong, has been growing in the wild in Tayside since at least 2006. Thought to originate either from escapes or illegal releases from private collections, they have been found in rivers and lochs stretching from Kinloch Rannoch to Perth.

The conservation coalition includes Friends of the Earth Scotland, Froglife, John Muir Trust, National Trust for Scotland (NTS), Plantlife Scotland, Ramblers Scotland, Reforesting Scotland, and the RSPB.

The organisations have now written Aileen McLeod, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, saying the beaver’s time has come in Scotland.

Lindsay Mackinlay, Nature Conservation Adviser, National Trust for Scotland, said: “Wild beavers used to live in Scotland not that long ago. Indeed, we have individual trees growing by our sides now that were present when the last beavers lived in our rivers. The National Trust for Scotland believe there is a very strong case for seeing the return of free-living beavers to Scotland as soon as possible. This decision has not been made hastily but has been reached after weighing up the scientific evidence and experiences from other countries.”


Trees damaged by beavers

Dr McLeod said: “Earlier this month, I received a substantial and detailed report from Scottish Natural Heritage entitled ‘Beavers in Scotland’ which I will consider carefully. The report sets out a number of options around the potential reintroduction of beavers and it takes a number of factors into account, including the impacts on our biodiversity as well as the impacts on agriculture and other land uses.

“The decision on whether to approve the first official reintroduction of a mammal species anywhere in the UK is an important one and I will not be rushing my decision. I will consider this report very carefully and will listen to the views of stakeholders over the summer and I expect to announce a decision later in the year.”

This story written by David Ross Highland Correspondent was first published by the HeraldScotland

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