At a recent drop in Beaver Information evening at Tayvallich, the film of the capture, quarantine and release of the beavers into Knapdale was shown. Anyone with an interest in animal welfare would be taken aback to see how they were captured with nets from boats, bundled into sacks and crates, kept in holding and then flown to Britain and transported to the quarantine facility in Devon which could hardly be described as ideal beaver habitat. It is not surprising that only one beaver family survived the experience intact, requiring the release to be bolstered by two families from an earlier importation which had been held at Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park. These animals were not mentioned in the film, giving the impression that all the released beavers came from the same place at the same time. It was fortunate for the project that RZSS happened to have removed their existing collection of Bavarian beavers and replaced them with beavers from the ‘right’ area. Otherwise there would be no trial.
Currently there are two families of three remaining in the trial site - Loch Linnhe and the Dubh Loch. One young female beaver from the Coille Bharr/Dubh Loch family has been missing since August 09 and there is a plan to search for it along the coast from Carsaig to Craignish. The two female beavers from Creag Mhor Loch have been missing since June 09. Signs of beaver activity were spotted in September at Drimvore, north of the Crinan Canal. A burrow on the River Add was washed out in floods and since then, there has been no sign of the animals. The adult male from Creag Mhor Loch which has been living alone on the loch since its escape bid ended last August was caught before Christmas in the routine catch-up to assess the animal’s health. It was found to be in poor condition and has been taken to Edinburgh Zoo for further investigation and treatment. It is not yet known whether it will be fit to return to the trial in the future.
Two families are not enough for a viable trial so two of the beavers from the original importation, an adult male and sub adult female, are to be paired up and released onto the lochan south east of Seafield Loch, locally known as the Lily Loch. This is a delightul lochan, fringed on three sides with a narrow band of broadleaved woodland and surrounded by conifers. There are more hardwoods to the south of the loch, soon to be under water if the beavers build a dam. This has always been a peaceful spot to sit and enjoy the native flora and fauna.
To discourage the animals from moving south along the burn which emerges onto land at Seafield Farm, it is proposed to fence the burn. How can anyone judge what impact beavers will have on the Scottish landscape if they are not allowed to roam freely. Why not just fence all the beaver lochs and call them Wildlife Parks and charge admission - then we would have a proper assessment of the benefits to tourism. Assuming the beavers remain on the lochan rather than heading for Seafield Loch, it will not take them long to dam the outlet stream and submerge the walkway and bench, removing another amenity enjoyed by locals and visitors. Being only a matter of a few hundred yards from the Clay Pigeon shoot, we can only hope they are not frightened away by the noise.
Even if this third pair settle on the Lily Loch, there are still not enough animals for a viable trial so it is proposed that permission is sought for the release of a fifth family sometime during the first two years of the trial so presumably more beavers will have to be captured in Norway, quarantined and released - unless of course RZSS, having lost their beavers which were brought over without any thought of being part of the trial, have had the foresight to import more animals for their collections. Wouldn’t that be lucky.
It is difficult not to feel contempt for Mike Russell, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and Scottish Natural Heritage et al over the intended beaver introduction. Not the same contempt that they have displayed for procedure during the risible consultation period and subsequently, I don’t have the right sort of cynicicm. If the opposite of the truth is a lie then between them, from Alec Salmond down, they have indulged themselves. SWT`s campaign of deliberate misinformation and evasion seemed to spur the other participants on. We learn from Mike Russell that “the people of Scotland” want this introduction, yet if you read the SNH survey you will discover that only 39 people, not even 39%, were in favour. Alec Salmond says that beaver were “highlighted” by SNH in their species action framework; not so, it merely appears on a list. Mike Russell said he was confident that SNH would give him unbiased advice! Is this the same SNH that spent over £83,000 trying to introduce beaver themselves? The same SNH that SWT says asked them to apply for the licence so that they wouldn’t appear to be involved? The same SNH that produced a report that said it was highly unlikely that a viable beaver population could exist in Scotland without human intervention. SWT boast that they will release them anywhere they can and then wash their hands of any responsibility thereafter. This from a charity supposedly protecting existing animals; I wonder just how honest they have been with their membership.
SNH has a list of invasive species, and more are arriving all the time, from Knotweed to American crayfish, Japanese shrimp to the New Zealand Flatworm, and let’s not forget the mink, the grey squirrel, and Sika Deer. They are big on reports because it looks like they are doing something, but action on the ground is a bit thin. So much more fun to connive with SWT to spend £2 million pounds on the introduction of another non-native life form. Mike Russell, parroting SWT, calls it a “charismatic” creature. It is certainly one way of describing a giant water rat famous for its destructive habits; in Europe hundreds of millions of euros are spent annually putting right the damage they cause to the infrastructure.
It’s worth remembering that SNH are the people who would rather slaughter hedgehogs on the Uists, because “they might get stressed” in a box on the ferry to the mainland. Now they have no qualms, moral or ethical, about trapping 40/50 beavers in Norway, transporting them in box to Scotland, quarantining them in questionably suitable security, trapping them again, putting them back in a box and taking them to Argyll. The release site in North Knapdale is designated SSSI and contains rare aquatic plants and other protected species such as, adders, newts, divers and dragonflies. It is an eco-system that has evolved over several hundred years without benefit of beaver and is a rich and diverse habitat. It was 4th on the SNH list of suitable beaver release sites, but presumably being on Forestry Commission land (themselves historically notorious for landscape abuse) it was the easiest option. Mike Russell, again parroting SWT, points to the creation of ponds and wetlands as one of the benefits of beaver, as these already exist, as he well knows, I wonder where he is referring to. All parties are keen to stress the species diversity advantages, without actually being able to be specific. No one has as yet revealed what it is that Argyll lacks that beaver will encourage. They also of course fail to point out that the existing species will be put at risk and that some will disappear altogether, but as there doesn’t appear to be a comprehensive species audit, we`ll never know. If at the end of the trial period the beaver are removed, will SWT and SNH be able to restore the ecosystem they have wantonly destroyed in the name of some very doubtful science?
If you or I were to pick the rare water lily or catch a newt, the full force of outraged environmental guardians would be brought to bear. So how is it that Mike Russell can get a giant rodent to do it and it’s all right? If this ill-conceived and pointless endeavour is successful, there will be a cost, financially and environmentally, a tab to be picked up by our children, who will no doubt wonder who the arrogant, self aggrandising perpetrators were, and why they were allowed to get away with it.
Open letter to papers and the Scottish Government
Dear Sir, It seems that it might be up to eight beaver that have died, certainly five died during their incarceration in a concrete floored shed during quarantine. They died to boost the ego of the former Environment Minister. They died as a consequence of lies told by Alec Salmond. They died because of Scottish Natural Heritage and political chicanery. They died because of the arrogance of the Scottish Wildlife Trust. They died because no one cared enough, not the opposition in Edinbrough, not the big businesses upon which they might deprade, nor the public, lulled and gulled by SWT’s pernicious propaganda. Presumably they are considered the broken eggs for the TWO AND A HALF MILLION pound eco-omelette being foisted on Argyll.
Now that so many have died, is the trial introduction still a valid endeavour? It has been admitted that the original number of beaver was insufficient for a proper trial, and that the five year trial period was not long enough for a proper study. So one does rather wonder how so many people got caught up in this fraudulent scheme. Because of the former minister’s ludicrous ambition to be known as the man who brought beaver to Scotland, no independent assessment was ever conducted. All the information, most of it of a blatant bias, has been generated by SWT and SNH. Should beaver become a problem after SWT’s Simon Milne has achieved his ambition to release them all over Scotland his solution is to issue hunting licences.
This whole ill starred enterprise is as ethically and morally bankrupt as the instigators who sponsor it. It was an act of despoliation to introduce a giant destructive rodent into a centuries old closed eco-system, which incidentally, already contained everything supposedly encouraged by beaver, except the hairy dragonfly. A TWO AND A HALF MILLION pound dragonfly needs to be bloody spectacular! It’s all there will be, that, and some dead trees.