Beavers' return 'a double boost to Scotland'
RE-INTRODUCING beavers to Scotland would give an enormous boost to eco-tourism and the economy in general, claims a leading wildlife conservation group.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) called on Allan Wilson, the deputy environment minister, yesterday to bring back the semi-aquatic rodents, after a 400-year absence, following extensive public consultation.
Consultation over the past three years by organisations such as Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) have established that there is a large majority of people in favour of re-introduction, the group claimed.
If the move is agreed, European beavers, probably from Norway, would be released into the Knapdale reserve on the Cowal peninsula in Argyll.
A trial introduction within an enclosed area was conducted by the Kent Wildlife Trust this year.
Steve Sankey, the chief executive of SWT, said: "Beavers have been re-introduced to over 12 EU member countries under the aegis of a EU Habitats Directive, but not to the UK.
"Scotland is one of the last European countries without a restored natural population. Re-introduction would represent an enormous boost to ecotourism and the economy of Scotland in general - and to Argyllshire in particular."
He added: "Beaver are one of Scotland’s missing species and an ancient but rightful part of Scotland’s landscape and fauna. They fulfil a niche role in managing the landscape, working as waterway engineers to remove small trees and other vegetation from around river systems.
"Such work provides and improves habitats for many other species."
In 1999, SNH found that 86 per cent of 1,944 people surveyed were in favour of the return of the beaver.
A Citizens Panel survey conducted independently in 2001 in Argyll and Bute found 46 per cent for, 21 per cent against and 33 per cent neutral.
The European beaver is the largest rodent native to Europe, with a distribution across the north of the continent. A distinct species from its North American relative, it grows to a metre and can weigh 20kg.
An Executive spokesman said: " Only once ministers have fully assessed the complex ecological, economic and legal aspects of this trial re-introduction will a decision be made."
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