The pair was released following permission granted by the Scottish Government on 10 June 2010, allowing additional beavers to replace or supplement family groups to work towards ensuring a core population of four breeding beaver pairs is established in the first two years of the Trial. This pair replaces the third family group, one adult and one juvenile female which dispersed from the Trial site last year (June 2009) and a male from the same group that was permanently removed from the Trial due to an underlying heart condition.
The Trial, which is a partnership project between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the Scottish Wildlife Trust aims to determine how beavers will prosper in Scottish habitats and to assess their effect on the current Scottish environment by monitoring them over the five-year trial period.
Roisin Campbell-Palmer, RZSS Project Leader said: “These two new beavers will provide an important boost to the current Scottish trial population and as this is a trial, it is important that we gain as much information as we can from them while they are in the wild to inform the eventual decision made by the Scottish Government as to whether beavers become a permanent feature of the Scottish landscape.
“We’ve done our best to minimize any stress to these animals during their release and we now hope that they will settle into their new home very quickly.”
Simon Jones, SBT Project Manager, said: “This is the fifth group of beavers to be released as part of this project and what is really exciting is that nearly a year into the Trial , we are now seeing many signs of positive beaver activity. Indeed, they are doing exactly what we had hoped these industrious creatures would do.
“The Dubh Loch site, home to a family of three beavers, provides us with a great example of beavers at work. Having now almost doubled in size due to flooding created by their dam building, the increase in aquatic habitat is allowing natural wildlife to thrive, which has been stunning to observe. In time we hope our new pair will have an equally positive effect.”
Prior to release, the beavers underwent an in-depth health assessment to ensure they were free of disease. They have complied with all the necessary importation checks and a Government veterinary risk-assessed period of quarantine. After additional vet examinations on the morning of the release, the beavers were declared fit and were transported from Edinburgh and released into the wild on Wednesday (23 June) afternoon.
This addition to the Scottish beaver population follows a first release of three families in May 2009 and, more recently, a further release of a male and female beaver pair on 4 May 2010. Following the dispersal of one family and an unfortunate death within another beaver pair, the new additions are necessary to bolster the Trial’s beaver population.
Jones explained: “To allow our Trial to provide results to inform decisions about the impact a wider beaver reintroduction might have on Scotland’s environment, it is essential that we create the most natural conditions possible for our wild beavers. This includes developing a viable breeding population which we feel can be done by establishing four breeding pairs in Knapdale.
“Learning from the experience of over 25 European countries which have already reintroduced beavers, the ‘bedding-in’ period we are experiencing in the early stages of our Trial is not uncommon.”
Prior to the release, two artificial lodges were created by the project team to provide temporary shelter until the pair can build a lodge of their own. Food and used bedding will be placed in these lodges to encourage them to settle in this new loch and make it their home.
Over the course of the Trial, all beavers will be tracked closely by the project team. The Scottish Beaver Trial could determine whether or not beavers are reintroduced into the wild across Scotland. Twenty-five European countries have already reintroduced beavers to their wild lands.
Beavers are a native species to the UK and were once a common sight before they were hunted to extinction by man. Beavers are known as a keystone species and bring many benefits to wetland environments and improve habitats for many other animals including invertebrates, birds and otters.
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