Beavers ‘to carve out £2m fortune’
TOURISTS flocking to see beavers back in the wild in Scotland will boost the economy by more than £2 million a year, wildlife experts predict.
Up to four families of beavers from Norway are to be let loose in Scotland next year. It will be the first time they have lived in the wild here since being hunted to extinction 400 years ago.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, leading the reintroduction, are gearing up for the animals to be a huge draw.
They commissioned a study by researchers at Oxford University who estimated the beavers could bring in more than 2 million a year. This is based on the financial benefits in other European countries that reintroduced beavers.
The authors of the study, Economic Impacts of the Beaver, predict tour operators will start leading visits to Knapdale Forest, Argyll, where the animals are to be released.
Ruairidh Campbell and colleagues at the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford, said in the report: “With forethought, prior consultation and planning, a beaver reintroduction should bring significant monetary benefits into the local economy and communities that could greatly outweigh any potential negative impacts.”
Downsides of reintroduction in other countries have included beavers eating crops and loss of farmland to flooding caused by beavers’ dams, the report says.
But in contrast to the huge sums brought to the economy, the damage is likely to cost a maximum of 8,000 a year.
Jeremy Usher Smith, a director of Wild Scotland, said beavers had the perfect characters to attract tourists. He pointed out they built large riverbank lodges, with families of about eight living together, so they would be easy to find.
He envisaged a visitor centre being set up, with hides for tourists to watch the animals.
He forecast tourists would be drawn to Knapdale and would be likely to stay locally and spend large amounts of money in the area.
“If you market it correctly and really produce the goods, people will pay for that,” he said. “If it’s done properly it’s a very valuable resource. This is a big, charismatic mammal and it’s easy to predict where it will be, so that lends itself to tourism.”
Clara Govier, spokeswoman for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said the trust had already been getting calls from members of the public keen to find out how they would be able to see the beavers.
The European beaver became extinct in Britain in the 16th century because of hunting. It has already been reintroduced to 24 European countries.
The Scottish Government granted permission last month for a trial reintroduction in Knapdale Forest, ten years after environment groups first suggested bringing back the animals.
Up to four beaver families are due to be captured in Norway in the autumn and brought to UK for quarantine, before being released at Knapdale next spring.
• The Scottish Beaver Trial is looking for support. Project partners need to raise 750,000.
Donations can be made at www.rzss.org.uk or www.swt.org.uk. For an information leaflet call 0131-312 7765.
THE beaver is a semi-aquatic rodent that can be found in North America and Europe.
Though it is a single-genus creature, the beaver is closely related to the squirrel family.
The European beaver was hunted almost to extinction, for both its coat and a secretion of its scent glands. It vanished from Britain in the 16th century.
However, the animal has now been re-introduced throughout mainland Europe.
They are best known for creating dams which are used as protection against predators and to provide easy access to food.
These constructions are often viewed as damaging the environment, but beavers have in fact helped keep streams and rivers in good repair with their activities.
They are a keystone in an ecosystem, creating wetlands that are used by many other species.
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