Beaver reintroduction confirmed in Scotland
The Scottish Government announced on 24th November 2016 that the beaver (Castor fiber) has been formally recognised as a native species.
In immediate terms this means that the trial project in Knapdale, on the West coast of Scotland, becomes a permanent settlement which can be expanded. The much larger but ‘informal’ population of some 150 escapees that have been breeding wild on the River Tay in the East can remain.
This also paves the way for further reintroductions, from which the beaver will eventually spread across Scotland - albeit with careful management under the watchful eye of landowners and farmers.
The announcement should also give impetus to reintroduction in Wales, where it is 11 years since Wild Europe launched the Welsh Beaver Forum at a conference in Newtown (July 2005), and commissioned WildCRU Consultancy of Oxford University to produce the Beavers Mean Business study of their economic impact.
This lead to formation of the Welsh Beaver Assessment Initiative to assess and promote feasibility of reintroduction (see WBAI Report). Approval to proceed has since been given by two ministers, although this has yet to be translated into action.
England, where there have been impromptu releases of a few individuals in the West Country, should not be far behind. Even after Brexit, beavers have little respect for national frontiers...
This icon of natural ecosystem restoration, or ‘rewilding’, has now been reintroduced to some 28 countries across Europe. In addition to enriching wetland biodiversity, its role in mitigation of flooding and stablisation of water tables is becoming well proven, and it offers significant scope for nature tourism.