Today (Wednesday 8 September 2010) HRH The Princess Royal visited the Scottish Beaver Trial at Knapdale, Mid-Argyll. The UK’s first ever formal mammal reintroduction project, news recently emerged that two of the Knapdale beaver families had bred for the first time. HRH The Princess Royal visited two loch side locations and was shown many field signs indicating their presence.
As patron of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), one of the organisations behind the Scottish Beaver Trial, HRH The Princess Royal on her two-hour visit was given an insight into the groundbreaking five-year project that has seen beavers return to Scotland on a trial basis after an absence of 400 years. Representatives from the project partners, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Forestry Commission Scotland, were also on hand to meet the Royal guest.
Accompanied on her tour of the site by Iain Valentine, RZSS’s Director of Animals, Conservation and Education, The Princess took a boat trip to see a beaver lodge belonging to one of the breeding families on the loch edge. The first release of beavers at Knapdale took place in May 2009, with further releases in May and June this year. Much to excitement of the project partners, the first sightings of two beaver kits were confirmed in July 2010 with one individual born to two different family groups.
Iain Valentine, RZSS’s Director of Animals, Conservation and Education welcomed the visit and interest from the Society’s patron: “We are delighted that Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal today has been able to visit this unique project and see the important conservation work the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland is undertaking. The Scottish Beaver Trial is not only a first for Scotland but for the UK too. We hope that similar projects will take place in England and Wales in the coming years that will harness the impacts this incredibly useful mammal can have on habitats and dependent species.”
The Scottish Beaver Trial aims to provide information which 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 were 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.
RZSS, the charity that owns Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park, has a long-standing relationship with the Royal family. With the Royal Charter being granted in 1913, it still remains the only zoo in the UK to have achieved Royal status. HRH The Princess Royal became RZSS’s patron in March 2009. Following a visit earlier in the day to RZSS’s site at Kincraig; the Highland Wildlife Park, HRH The Princess Royal left Knapdale shortly after 5pm.
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