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Scotland welcomes back wild beaver

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Scotland is today one animal species richer following the release into the wild of three beaver families - the first examples to enjoy the Caledonian habitat since the animal was driven to extinction in the 16th Century.

The release at sites in Knapdale Forest, Mid-Argyll, follows years of lobbying by beaver aficionados and conservation experts, and was made possible largely by private donations and grants.

The release of beavers in Scotland

Co-ordinating the repopulation is an alliance of the The Scottish Beaver Trial (represented by Jenny Holden and Simon Jones in pic, above), the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and host partner Forestry Commission Scotland.

On hand to witness the Norwegian beavers' liberation this morning was Scottish Minister for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, who 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."

Scottish Beaver Trial chairman Allan Bantick chipped in with: “The release of the beavers today 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."

Bantick noted that 24 European countries have already reintroduced beavers at 150 different sites. The Scottish project is, he added, 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".

Bantick countered some critics' assertion that the beavers would impact on migratory fish numbers, especially salmon. He insisted this hadn't happened anywhere else in Europe, and in any case "the notion cannot be tested with this trial because there is no Atlantic salmon present in the trial site".

The beavers, meanwhile, are now settling into their new environment. 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." ®

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