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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Scheme to boost beaver population
Beavers could soon be making an appearance in Scotland
A plan to reintroduce beavers to the Scottish countryside has been launched by two conservation groups.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) are proposing a trial reintroduction of the European beaver.

If given the go ahead, the pilot scheme would see between 15 and 20 beavers, from Norway, introduced to Knapdale Forest, Mid-Argyll.

A consultation exercise to give local residents their say is under way.

The trial would be monitored to help decide whether or not beavers should be returned to other areas in Scotland.

While both SWT and RZSS support the scheme, leaders of the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association (SRPBA) have voiced concerns.

This is our chance to be the first country in the UK to bring back this charismatic and useful creature
Simon Milne
SWT chief executive

Doug McAdam, SRPBA chief executive, said: "The reintroduction of the European beaver to Scotland would effectively be an introduction of a now alien species.

"After a gap of 400 years, former habitats have been developed and are now a managed landscape, providing environmental, economic and recreational benefits."

Mr McAdam said that without proper impact assessments and controls in place, the reintroduction of beavers "may in fact prove detrimental to existing species and habitats in the longer term".

He claimed bringing back beavers would "inevitably impact" on spawning areas for trout and salmon.

A previous bid to reintroduce beavers to Knapdale Forest was unsuccessful in 2005, when Scottish Natural Heritage failed to get a licence for such a scheme.

'Tourism boost'

Mr McAdam said the concerns that existed then over the impact on agriculture, forestry and angling still remained.

But those in favour of the reintroduction of the creature said beavers can have a positive effect on both environmental and woodland management, and could also attract tourists to the area.

Simon Milne, chief executive of SWT, said: "The launch of this local consultation is the first stage in the return of an important species missing from Scotland's wildlife."

He added: "The Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland are committed to making this project a reality, but we need local support to make it a success.

"Together this is our chance to be the first country in the UK to bring back this charismatic and useful creature."

Iain Valentine, the head of animals, education and conservation at the RZSS, described Knapdale Forest as the ideal location for the project.

"Beaver reintroductions have proved to be very successful in over 20 others countries, and we believe that the time is right to bring the beaver back to Scotland," he said.

"As well as being a keystone species, in terms of the benefits they bring to ecosystems, they will also provide a socio-economic boost by increasing tourism in the local area."

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