Thursday, 2 September 2010

Dear Anonymous

Comment Posted on Previous beaver blog from ‘Anonymous’

‘Beavers were extinct in the British Isles. That's very endangered. As part of the native British flora, they should be represented and intuition suggests that their effect on the ecological web of life should be a net positive one and on balance worth trying out. Ideally Britain should have a healthy population of wild cats, lynxes, three or four packs of wolves and a spattering of bears. Obviously there's simply not the habitat left to support the vast majority of our natural fauna, so the remainder is impoverished and biased against top predators that require a large range, favouring herbivores such as deer. However it makes sense to ensure what remains includes as much as is practicable, including beaver despite the occasional inconveniences that they cause’.

Dear Mr or Ms Anonymous, thankyou for your comment on the Scottish Beaver Blog. In the absence of your name and address, I wonder if you live in the Knapdale area and will be subject to the ‘occasional inconveniences’ which you feel those of us who do live here, should be prepared to put up with? I hate to embarass you by pointing out that beavers come under the heading ‘fauna’ rather than ‘flora’, or maybe you have misunderstood the entire project? I don’t think I need to point out that 'extinct' is not synonymous with ‘very endangered’. The dodo is not ‘very endangered’, neither is the Woolly Mammoth or the Tyrannosauras Rex. The main threat to the imported beavers has arisen from the very act of importing them.

Your comment is remarkably similar to the case put for the introduction of Beaver by the Beaver Project Team during the ‘consultation’ period and in every press release since. You only have to visit Knapdale to see that this is very far from an ‘impoverished’ habitat, indeed it is already host to all the insect, amphibian and plant life which we are told will be the result of the inclusion of beavers in Knapdale. If it has not become impoverished in the last 400 years (if we go along with the notion that they were ever in this area), then I don’t think we need to worry unduly. However, we have now lost several hundred trees due to flooding and ‘coppicing’ and deer numbers will ensure that new growth is soon removed. Beavers have never existed in Ireland and I don’t think that you can describe the Irish landscape as ‘impoverished’. It seems that you can only put beavers where it is already perfect beaver habitat and therefore does not need the beavers to make it more perfect. The truly impoverished landscapes of the country are not due to the absence of beavers, but to the activities of man. Logically, the best thing we can do for the environment is to remove humans rather than relocate a handful of beavers to Knapdale. The carbon footprint of this introduction must far outweigh any environmental advantage that may occur.

You mention Wild Cats which are indeed endangered both by a loss of habitat and inter breeding with domestic cats. The Wild Cat is an iconic Scottish animal and does still cling on in parts of Scotland. When it is gone, we will not be able to import an approximate copy from elsewhere so perhaps it would be better to spend the £2.5 million on helping to restore their habitat and numbers rather than turning Knapdale into a Beaver Theme Park.

I think we should all think very carefully before we applaud initiatives which happen in parts of the country where we do not live. Unless one lives in an area and has extensive knowledge of the landscape, wildlife and terrain, one should hesitate before speaking out on matters one does not fully understand.