Page last updated at 00:51 GMT, Monday, 24 December 2007

Beavers could be released in 2009

About 20 beavers would be brought to Scotland from Norway

Plans are in the pipeline for beavers to be released into the Scottish wild for the first time in 500 years.

Wildlife bodies have asked the Scottish Government for a licence to allow about 20 beavers to be set free in Argyll in 2009.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland believe the animals will improve the eco-system and boost tourism.

Beavers were hunted to extinction in Scotland in the 16th Century.

The mammals, best known for their dam building and tree felling skills, have been successfully reintroduced elsewhere in Europe, including parts of Germany and the Netherlands.

The licence application submitted to the Scottish Government is for a trial reintroduction of European beavers in the Knapdale Forest in Mid-Argyll.

Important role

The bid follows the publication of the results of a two-month long local consultation.

The survey showed almost three quarters of people in Mid-Argyll backed the beaver plan, but more than half of those living directly around Knapdale were opposed to the scheme.

Beavers are thought to play an important role in aquatic and wetland eco-systems, and on the wider biodiversity of the area in which they live.

Allan Bantick, chairman of the Beaver Project Steering Group and trustee of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: "We are delighted that this licence application has now been submitted and we look forward to conducting a full scientific trial of the first formal reintroduction of a native mammal into the wild in the UK.

"The first beavers could be reintroduced to Mid-Argyll in spring 2009.

"Once we get the green light from the Scottish Government we will develop the detailed plan for the trial taking into consideration issues raised during the consultation."

We anticipate a great deal of public interest in the long awaited return of the beaver to Scotland
David Windmill
Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

David Windmill, Chief Executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: "We are very keen to see this trial go ahead.

"We will work with all the various stakeholders involved in the project to make it a success and to benefit from the contribution the beaver can make to improving our natural ecosystems and habitats as well as encouraging tourism.

"We are very pleased to have so much support for this project and anticipate a great deal of public interest in the long awaited return of the beaver to Scotland."

Approval for the trial reintroduction would see 15 to 20 beavers from Norway introduced to the trial site following a period of quarantine.

The ultimate aim of the trial would be to monitor the success and impact of the beaver reintroduction before the animal is released elsewhere in Scotland.

In January 2007, the Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage launched a wildlife strategy that included restoring the European beaver to Scotland.

The Scottish Beaver Trial partnership hopes that the government will make its decision on the licence application in spring 2008.

A previous licence application for a trial reintroduction of beaver in Knapdale, submitted by Scottish Natural Heritage was rejected in 2005.

Scheme to boost beaver population
01 Oct 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Trip gives an insight into beaver
23 May 07 |  Highlands and Islands

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