They help protect against flooding, clean the waterways, look cute and keep those pesky trees under control and they may be moving to your neighbourhood (if you live near a river, which I don’t). Yes, following the decision to reintroduce beavers in Scotland later this year Natural England has conducted a study that has found that a reintroduction to England could be beneficial (more on the BBC website).
The benefits of the reintroduction include reduced flooding, tourism and cleaner waterways. I may be a bit blinkered about this, but to me these seem like pretty big advantages, with not too many disadvantages. It was a topic discussed on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today program and I was a little surprised by the comments against the idea. Included in the arguments are the problems now encountered with Grey Squirrels and Mink. The difference is that Beavers were native to the UK and we hunted them to extinction.
I know that the UK is a different place to that of 500 years ago, but so is the rest of Europe where Beaver reintroduction has been successful. We’ll just have to reintroduce wolves or lynx at some point to keep the numbers down!
There have been two separate stories on the internet and in the papers this week relating to the re-introduction of species to the British Isles.
The first relates to the re-introduction of beavers to Scotland, a story that first hit the headlines back in May. The four families of beavers, which will be released in May, have been flown into the UK from Norway. Although there still seems to be some opposition to the move, mainly from those employed by the fishing industry, it appears to me to be a good idea. From what I can tell, there has been a long period of consultation and much study of other beaver re-introduction schemes in Europe. The releases are on a small scale, and therefore should not have a wide-scale effect on the environment at large. Also, this is a creature that has many beneficial effects on the local ecosystem, and was once a native until we killed them all to make fetching hats. It is not comparable with, for example, the release of mink, a species that has never been native to this country and which has nothing but a detrimental effect on the local fauna and flora. If you want to read more about this visit the BBC website.
In a separate story this week it appears that there are plans to re-introduce White-Tailed Eagles (Sea Eagles) to England. Following a successful re-introduction to the west coast of Scotland thirty years ago, plans are being drawn up to re-introduce these magnificent birds to Norfolk. There are currently 42 pairs in the west of Scotland, and they are now attempting to re-introduce them to the east coast. This is a re-introduction that has not been entirely problem-free with too many cases of poisoning and trapping of the eagles, with farmers believing them to be taking lambs being the main suspects. This is despite the estimated £1.5 million per year revenue that the eagles are thought to bring to the Isle of Mull.
The White-Tailed Eagle was once native to England before being driven out approximately 200 years ago. Norfolk has been chosen as a potential release area as it is thought to provide sufficiently large areas of wetland. The work carried out on this project and the ones in Scotland are of importance worldwide as there are only 7000 pairs remaining. As with other such schemes there will no doubt be a long period of consultation prior to the start of the scheme, although the first survey of 500 local people appears to be promising, with 91% in favour of re-introducing the eagles. More about this story can be found on both the BBC and RSPB websites.
There was an article on the BBC news website today announcing that 400 years after we wiped them out in the UK beavers are going to be reintroduced into Scotland. Â Three or four families of beavers will be captured in Norway in the autumn, kept in quarantine for 6 months and then released to a number of sites in Scotland. Â
The reintroduction of species has been the subject of controversy, this seems to be more the case with mammals than in the bird world which has seen reintroduction programmes for red kites and ospreys in the last decade. Â This will be the first reintroduction of a mammal in the UK, and has followed a lengthy period of preparation and research.
Although some people seem concerned about the effect reintroducing these creatures will have on the environment, they are being settled in areas that they used to inhabit (unlike the ospreys at Rutland Water), and will bring benefits to the environment. Â It seems to me that the planning for this was probably more in depth than that for new houses on flood plains and many of the other project we carry out which are detrimental to the natural processes which keep the environment balanced.
The full article can be found on the BBC website.