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BROCHURE RACK

Scotland welcomes back the beaver – Wildlife Extra questions the cost

29/05/2009 09:50:07
uk/uk_wildlife/Beaver_leaving_lodge_rzss

Scottish beaver leaving it's prefab lodge. Credit RZSS

Scotland beavers return to the wild
May 2009. The first beavers to live in Scotland for over 400 years have been released into the wild in Knapdale Forest, Mid-Argyll. The Scottish Beaver Trial (SBT), a partnership project run by Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT), the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and host partner Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), began officially on Friday 29th May. 

Three beaver families from Norway
Marking the first formal reintroduction of a native mammal species into the wild in the UK, three beaver families have now been released at carefully selected sites in Knapdale Forest, Mid-Argyll. The beavers, originally from Norway, have been chosen because they are considered to be the closest type to those once found in the UK and have all completed a six-month statutory quarantine period. 
 

Other beavers in the UK

  • 2006. A pair of beavers released into a
    200 acre  on the Aigas Field Centre in
    Scotland. They have bred succesfully for
    several years.
  • 2007. Two beavers were caught in a loch
    near the Bridge or Erin. It is thought that
    they were released by perons unknown.
  • Lower Mill Estate near South Cerney in
    Gloucestershire - Released 5 beavers
    into a 500 acre enclosure 
  • A pair of beavers on the Escot estate in
    Devon built a dam in 2008.

Scottish Minister for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, arrived at the trial site this morning to show her support for the project, and assisted with the release of one of the family groups.

Roseanna Cunningham said: "Welcoming beavers back to Scotland marks a historic day for conservation. These charismatic creatures are not only likely to create interest in Scotland from further afield but crucially can play a key role in providing good habitat for a wide range of wetland species. And while a great deal of research has already gone into the reintroduction this work is far from over. Observations and data collection over the next five years will play a crucial role in assessing the long term future for beavers in the Scottish landscape."

Extinct in the UK since 16th Century
The release is for a time-limited trial period and comes after years of lobbying by ecologists and conservation experts who believe that the beaver has been a missing part of our wetland eco-systems since being hunted to

Beaver released in Scotland with tag on its back to help with th eresearch project. Credit RZSS.

Beaver released in Scotland with tag on its back to help with th eresearch project. Credit RZSS.

extinction in the 16th Century. The trial is mostly funded thanks to private donations and grants, including up to £1 million from Biffaward and support from People's Postcode Lottery and People's Trust for Endangered Species.

Beaver reintroduced to 24 European countries
Allan Bantick, Chairman of SWT and Chair of the Scottish Beaver Trial partnership, said: "The release of the beavers means that we are one step closer to rebuilding the natural biodiversity of Scotland. Beavers are a native species made extinct by man and we are hoping that our trial reintroduction is a step towards seeing this corrected. Beavers are a species worth having in any ecosystem as their presence is known to bring a vast number of benefits to other native Scottish wildlife as well as wetland and waterside habitats. Our reintroduction follows in the footsteps of 24 other European countries, who have already reintroduced beavers to over 150 different sites.

Unjustifiable cost

While Wildlife Extra is delighted and thrilled to see beavers being released back into their natural habitat within the UK, WE believes that the £1 Million price tag is an inordinate amount of money that could have been much better used elsewhere. Beavers are not an endangered species and if it was really necessary to spend that amount of cash on this project, WE believes it was as waste.

Other projects that could have used the cash

- Scottish Wildcats - Just 400 pure bred left in the wild.
- Moray Firth dolphins. Small population is in decline.
- 1580 acre Corehead Farm appeal. Purchase and reforestation of spectacular hills in Scotland's southern uplands.

Threat to fish?
"Our critics' worry that beavers might pose a risk to migratory fish numbers, including salmon. This has not been found to be the case anywhere else in Europe. However, the notion cannot be tested with this trial because there is no Atlantic salmon present in the trial site. Our beavers will be released within a designated trial area, which should be large enough to sustain the natural expansion of their population over the next five years.

Time limited trial
"It is vital that our project is recognised as a time-limited trial with the purpose of assessing the effect beavers have on the local environment and how well they settle into their new habitat here in Scotland."

Artificial lodges
Scottish Beaver Trial Project Manager, Simon Jones, said: "The release of the beaver families went extremely well. They were placed into purpose-built artificial lodges at carefully selected points around the trial site. They will now gradually gnaw their way out of the lodge at a pace that is comfortable for them before exploring their new surroundings.

"Now that our beavers have been released into the wild, the real work of our trial can begin. First and foremost, this is a scientific study of how the beavers cope naturally in the Scottish environment and what effect they have upon it. We will be closely tracking the beavers' activities and collecting data over the next five years to help inform the independent scientific monitoring, co-ordinated by Scottish Natural Heritage. This will help the Scottish Government in making any final decisions on the future of beavers in Knapdale Forest or elsewhere in Scotland.

Beaver being transported to its release site after 6 months in quarantine. Credit RZSS.

Beaver being transported to its release site after 6 months in quarantine. Credit RZSS.

Visiting the beaver release site
"We will also be continuing to engage with the local community as well as trying to inspire Scots to support this exciting conservation project. We hope to see many people visiting the trial site over time, but the beavers do need time to settle in before meeting the neighbours.

"Visitors will stand a better chance of seeing beaver signs, and maybe even some beavers, by waiting a few months to make their trip to the trial site. By timing your visit in the early morning or early evening, you will have the best chance of spotting these intriguing animals in the wild."

FCS is the host partner of the Scottish Beaver Trial and believes that Knapdale Forest is an ideal location to carry out the project as it covers a range of important habitats and biodiversity. The trial area is also in the heart of a forest which produces timber and provides recreational facilities for people, making it a suitable place to explore how beavers co-exist with forestry operations and the environment.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is the independent body tasked by the Scottish Government to co-ordinate the scientific monitoring of the trial. SNH will report to the Scottish Government at the end of the trial period and a decision can then be made on the future of the beavers in Knapdale Forest and elsewhere in Scotland. The Scottish Government approved a licence for the release of the beaver families in Knapdale Forest in May 2008, following a two-month long public consultation which showed that 73% of respondents were in favour of the trial. The Scottish Beaver Trial is part of the Species Action Framework.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

Just think about it

Just think about it, 1 million means less guilt for humanity for being the cause for their destruction!!!!!!!!!!!!
Beavers being reintroduced means that one more step has been taken to get back Scotland's wild side, beavers are key for biodiversity and earn money for Scotland itself by having an animal that raises tourism value.
LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICTURE!!!!!!!

Posted by: irishturtle0124 | 14 Oct 2012 00:10:07

£1million

does that include land acquisitions? if so, then that's not so much. if not, then it does make you wonder whether there's been a given amount of misspending.

Posted by: robert piller | 08 Feb 2011 15:49:50

More debate...

So, 1.8 million quid to semi-release a well-studied robust native herbivore into prime habitat seems to be too much for most people! I have to agree- how many other projects will be robbed of funds to pay for this needlessly bloated scheme?
I'd just like to thank WE for having the spine to hold debates like these. As some of the (really interesting) comments here show- there are a wide range of opinions out there about what conservation is for and where it should go. The future of our wildlife is too important to be left to technocrats, rich landowners or politicians, but on the other hand popular ideas about nature often flow more from Beatrix Potter than good science! Debate is essential but sadly lacking. WE is becoming a great forum- Keep it up!

Posted by: Mark | 28 Jun 2009 23:49:44

WELL SAID WILDLIFE EXTRA

I applaud you for being brave enough to question the costs of reintroducing the beaver. And you've underestimated it I believe. The first round of research about 4 years ago cost £400,000 alone. So I think that could be added.
I, and others, have been campaigning to SAVE the red squirrel, which is clearly endangered, and the sums spent by Government at the time of the research into Beavers were under £100,000 p.a. (around £20,000 in South Scotland). Its a question of priorities...
SURELY its better to save an animal from extinction, before we reintroduce the extinct ones? Or maybe its not so headline catching?

Posted by: A Steel | 19 Jun 2009 22:36:20

Beaver costs

WE take your points on board, and I appreciate that the beavers will have a much wider beneficial affect on their habitats. WE do not question whether beavers should be reintroduced in any way, but merely the cost involved.

If the cost was 100 Million £, that would patently be too much. If the cost was £500, that would be great value. Somewhere in the middle is a reasonable amount, and we are disagreeing over where that level is, not the philosophy itself.

Many other countries have reintroduced beavers across Europe, including, as you say, Romania. These reintroductions would have provided plenty of data that should have made a 7 year trial unnecessary, thus vastly reducing the cost.

And I suspect that the Romanians, Belgians, Hungarians and Croatians, who have all reintroduced beavers, didn't spend £1.8M each on the reintroductions, in total.

Reintroduce the beavers into Knapdale, fantastic, and perhaps go back in a few years and see how they are getting on, or perhaps just look at the beavers already in Kent, Devon & Gloucestershire and see how they are faring. But £1.8m (assuming no further cost increases)?

Posted by: Powell Ettinger | 18 Jun 2009 09:48:18

Bargain beavers

I would like to add my disappointment to that expressed by others regarding the response of Wildlife Extra to the release of beavers in Scotland. Unlike many other species which have an intrinsic value in themselves but little positive impact on the environment generally, the activities of beavers have knock-on benefits to many species of invertebrate, amphibian, fish, mammal and bird. In an article a couple of years ago Rob Strachan cited beavers as having potential benefits for as many as 32 species of conservation concern.

Once they have established themselves, beavers will provide these benefits indefinitely as part of their daily lives and the cost of the reintroduction project, coupled with the ongoing cost of mitigating any conflicts, pales into insignificance when you consider what it would cost to create these benefits to both wildlife and water quality using conservation workers or contractors.

Given that countries as poor as Roumania reintroduced beavers years ago, along with the majority of the rest of Europe, it is long overdue that a country as comparatively wealthy as ours should finally be reintroducing such an important animal.

Posted by: Kate | 03 Jun 2009 15:25:48

Beavers or children dieing? - You choose

Please read this quote from an evangelist called Anthony Campolo:

"I have three things I'd like to say.

  • First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition.
  • Second, most of you don't give a shit.
  • What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night."

How many lives could have been saved with this money?

Posted by: Children are dieing | 03 Jun 2009 12:58:01

I agree with WE

Whilst it's great to see beavers back in the UK i think the money would have been much better spent on animals already here that need the help, such as the scottish wildcats, or dolphins.

Posted by: | 03 Jun 2009 12:44:55

WE's beaver trial comment

Dear WE,

I was extremely disappointed to read your view on the current beaver trial. Your words were facile and narrow-minded and not of the usual calibre expected from your pages. You have managed to miss the point entirely; conservation is not only about endangered species but incorporates a whole arena of approaches, philosophies and objectives. The restoration of damaged ecosystems, of which individual species are a part, is but one aspect of the game being played. Although the wisdom of the concept as a whole is, of course, arguable, the long-term goal of restoring much of the fauna of the British Isles is what is being begun here, not just the isolated reintroduction of one species. Please refrain from such ill-thought out commentary in the future.

Posted by: Gareth | 01 Jun 2009 07:47:44

MILLION QUID DOESN'T GET YOU MUCH NOWADAYS

A million quid is going to be spent on Ilkley Moor over the next 10 years, mostly to compensate commoners to reduce the number of sheep they graze on the moor. Good value for public money?? Won't see any tree cover developing - birdists will see to that!

Millions get spent on butterflies so we have 5 instead of six. Millions get spent on nightjars and Dartford warblers. The list goes on.

Yes, its wrong to have a fashion parade for what gets funded. I would go for a reforestation project every time. But the beaver is something special, not just because of the animal that it is, but because its hopefully successful reintroduction will prove a point, and maybe make the next reintroduction that much easier.

Posted by: Mark Fisher | 30 May 2009 10:38:47

The other projects are attainable too.

I couldn't agree more. Beaver restoration will have far reaching benefits for whole ecosystems which can never be measured in monetary terms. Compared to the reintroduction of the Large Blue or the Great Bustard, the status of many more species will be likely to improve with this program. An obscenely wealthy country such as the UK has the potential to set an example to the rest of the world by reclaiming its historic biodiversity.

Posted by: Phil | 30 May 2009 03:38:57

Beavers are good value

Your complaint about the cost of the beaver reintroduction is depressingly mean and narrow-minded.

The beaver is a keystone species, reshaping its environment in ways that are good for biodiversity. Its reintroduction is more important than the alternative ways of spending the money that you mention - and in any case these things aren't either/or, it's a question of what inspires individuals to donate.

As a member of SWT for 30 years, I think this one of their most exciting and worthwhile projects, and will happily donate a little more if the project needs it.

A final thought: the cost is high only because of the precautions that have to be taken to protect our biodiversity. They probably aren't necessary in the case of the beaver, but I guess one has to applaud government for being cautious.

Posted by: Denis Mollison | 29 May 2009 14:13:24

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