The five year trial ends in 2014 with a decision on the re-introduction of beavers to be made in 2015. In the meantime, there are about 150 beavers living wild on Tayside. These beavers are the result of escapes from captive collections and have been known about for at least 10 years which was before the start of the Knapdale Trial with its £2 million price tag. Attempts to remove them in 2010 were a complete fiasco - only one was trapped and it subsequently died in Edinburgh Zoo. At the time, numbers were estimated to be between 6 and 20 animals. A survey by SNH in 2012 established that there are about 150 beavers. Removal was considered impractical and politically inadvisable and so the Minister at the time decided to allow the beavers to remain until the end of the Knapdale Trial when a decision will be made. While 150 beavers on Tayside at no cost to the taxpayer continue to flourish, the 12 beavers in Knapdale continue to be studied, trapped and tested to ascertain whether or not beavers will be beneficial to the British environment.
May 2009 11 beavers released in Knapdale
2009 Adult Pair (Frid & Frank) Male Juvenile (Biffa) and Male Kit - kit died shortly after release, juvenile dispersed Total 2 beavers
2010 Adult Pair, sub-adult Male (Biffa) dispersed plus one kit born (Barney). Total 3 beavers
2011 Adult Pair, juvenile Male (Barney), one male kit born. Total 4 beavers
2012 Adult Pair, I sub-adult (Barney), one male juvenile, one female kit born, later found dead. Total 4 beavers
Loch Coille Bharr/Dubh Loch
2009 Adult Pair, Two Female Juveniles - one female juvenile disappeared during the first year. Total 3 beavers
2010 Adult Pair (Bjornar & Katrina), One Female Juvenile (Mille) plus one kit born. Total 4 beavers
2011 Adult Pair, (Bjornar & Katrina) One Female Sub adult, one juvenile, (gender not known) one kit born later found dead Total 4 beavers
2012 Adult Pair, One Female Sub adult, three kits born from pairing of Adult male and formerly sub-adult female. 2010 kit missing. Total 6 beavers.
2013 Adult pair (Bjornar & Mille) moved to Coille Bharr, Adult female (Katrina) remaining on Dubh Loch. Three kits disappeared unaccounted for. Total 3 beavers
Loch Creag Mhor
2009 Adult Pair, One Female Kit - dispersed shortly after release. Adult Male found at Craignish, 10 miles north of release site. Returned to site but later died in Edinburgh Zoo. Adult female and kit seen around Crinan Canal and signs found at Drimvore and on Shuna (island off the west coast near Oban) but beavers not recovered and are believed to be dead
2010 Sub-adult beaver pair released - Eoghan and Elaine. Total 2 beavers
2011 Sub adult pair. Eoghan swapped places with Seafield Loch male Christian. No kits. Total 2 beavers
2012 Adult pair (Christian and Elaine). No kits. Total 2 beavers.
Lily Loch/Seafield Loch (called Loch Buic by Trial)
2010 Adult Male and Sub Adult female (Trude) pair released on Lily Loch. Adult male died soon after.
Female moved to Seafield Loch. Later another male beaver (Christian) was released to join her. Total 2 beavers
2011 Adult Pair (Trude & Eoghan - Christian moved to Creag Mhor Loch). No kits Total 2 beavers
2012 Adult Pair, one female kit born. Total 3 beavers
In total, 16 beavers have been released, 9 beavers have been born - Total 25.
5 beavers have died and 8 are unaccounted for, presumed dead.
There are currently 12 beavers in the trial (March 2013).
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.