Thursday, 24 November 2016

Scottish government recognises beavers as a native species

Woohoo! Finally after months and months of prevarication, the Scottish Government has formally recognised that beavers are a native Scottish species, and so will receive protection under European and Scottish law.

This is big news, as it means that not only the 'official' beaver reintroduction programme in Argyll, but also the much larger unofficial beaver population in Tayside can now stay permanently, and will be protected. Up until now they have occupied a sort of twilight area, where they have been vulnerable to killing and extermination.

While this is obviously of huge benefit to the beavers in Scotland, it could also be good news for similar 'semi-legal' populations in England, which I had a hand in helping be left in the wild. Currently the only beavers officially recognised in England is the group which escaped and established themselves on the River Otter in Devon, which is now being allowed to remain as a 'trial' managed by the Devon Wildlife Trust. Even these are not totally protected and could in theory be removed at the end of the process.

At the same time there are several other unofficial populations in England which, like their counterparts in the Tay river system, have been breeding unofficially and which are vulnerable.

So far the UK government has been loath to recognise that beavers are a native species in England, with all the legal safeguards that might entail. They even went so far as to introduce a clause in the infrastructure bill which could help to separate populations of the same species into lawful and unlawful ones. Nonetheless, the fact that the Scottish government has done so must put pressure on the UK government to follow suit, and may even have legal consequences all on its own. Watch this space. Regardless of the law, there really is no excuse not to protect them. At a time when the loss of wildlife is almost routine, we should fight tooth and nail for any chance to see a lost species return and spread.

In the meantime, it is a good thing in the midst of lots of bad things. So let's be happy.

No comments:

Post a Comment