Wildwood Trust's members and staff have been celebrating a momentous victory in their efforts to re-establish beaver to the UK after the Scottish Government instructed that its programme to kill over 100 beavers living wild and free near Perth be abandoned.
The Scottish environment minister, Stewart Stevenson, after consulting wildlife experts and listening to advice from groups such as Wildwood Trust and the Scottish Wild Beaver Group chose to suspend the trapping and to review the position in 2015, when an official beaver reintroduction study is due to end.
The population of 'free beavers' as they have become known, has grown on the River Tay over the last 10 years, living wild and free. There is a good chance these beaver were actually legally imported by Wildwood and quarantined at our park; this would have been just before we became a charity. Unknown to Wildwood, some of these beavers who had been given to a small zoo near the river Tay subsequently escaped and from that escape a population of around 120 has grown.
Wildwood Trust's members rallied to the cause, joining hundreds of others in writing letters urging the Scottish Environment Minister to save the beaver in the weeks running up to the decision.
But the battle to re-establish these natural waterway managers continues with some extreme landowning groups calling on farmers to shoot the beaver on sight as reported in the Daily Telegraph.
Wildwood Trust Chief Executive said
"This is a momentous day and a major step towards restoring the health of our riverbanks and wetlands. Beavers are the most important animal in helping restore the British countryside. Beavers are a 'keystone' species and their marvellous management of riverbanks helps create a home for a huge range of other wildlife."
"Since we hunted beavers to extinction in the UK about 400 years ago our rivers and streams have been much the poorer. Riverbank animals like otters, water voles, dragonflies and kingfishers have all suffered in their absence."
"Beavers create wetlands and these wetlands act as a giant sponge helping to retain and purify water, prevent pollution, they also reduce flooding which, of course could help reduce the cost of our water bills. A study in Germany estimated that every beaver was worth about £2,500 in reduced water bills and benefits to the people who lived nearby them."
Wildwood's good friend Louise Ramsay, who has lead the fight to protect the beaver in Scotland, and heads the Scottish Wild Beaver Group commented on BBC Radio Scotland that" beavers have a tremendously positive impact on the environment by creating new pools for wildlife and river species, and allowing forests to regenerate. Beavers exist in the whole of Eurasia and North America and mitigation techniques have been developed for all the types of problems that beavers can produce,"
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Beavers were hunted to extinction in the UK in the 17th century for their pelts, their meat and their musk glands, which had medicinal properties.
Beavers can and do dramatically change the landscape. The beaver is a keystone species - their skills as foresters and engineers create and maintain ponds and wetlands that increase biodiversity purify water and prevent large-scale flooding.
Scientist estimate that in America restoring only 3 percent of the original, beaver created, wetlands might suffice to prevent catastrophic floods; the same could be true for the UK.
Scottish Natural History's director of science, Colin Galbraith, said:
"More than 20 other countries, including France, Germany and Denmark have reintroduced beavers and the experience has been very positive. Beavers fit into the landscape very well and in places like Brittany they have become part of the environment, with minimal damage to agriculture and other interests. "Beaver dams would improve water quality, produce new habitats for fish and help reduce flooding downstream."
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Wildwood Trust is Kent's unique 'Woodland Discovery Park', a visitor attraction with a difference.
Wildwood is not only the best place to bring the family for a day out, but it is also a bold and innovative new charity, backed by the UK's leading wildlife conservationists. As a new charity Wildwood needs everyone's support in its mission to save our native and once native wildlife from extinction.
Wildwood Trust's vision is to bring back our true 'wildwood', a unique new way of restoring Britain's land to its natural state. This involves releasing large wild herbivores and developing conservation grazing systems to restore natural ecological processes to help Britain team with wildlife again.
The Wildwood 'Woodland Discovery Park' is an ideal day out for all the family where you can come see British Wildlife past and present. Wildwood offers its members and visitors a truly inspirational way to learn about the natural history of Britain by actually seeing the wildlife that once lived here.
Set in a sublime 38 acres of Ancient Woodland, Wildwood offers visitors a truly unique experience. Come Nose to Nose with our secretive badgers, experience what it is like to be hunted by a real live pack of wolves, watch a charging wild boar or see a beaver in his lodge.
Wildwood Trust runs a highly successful programme of Conservation Projects - we are the UK's leading experts in rescuing and re-establishing colonies of Britain's most threatened mammal, the water vole. Wildwood Trust has pioneered the use of ancient wild horses to restore nature reserve. Wildwood Trust has been at the forefront of efforts to re-establish the European Beaver back in Britain where they belong. European Beaver have been proven to help manage water ways to bring back a huge range of plants, insects and animals.