Wildwood Trust, Kent’s Unique Wildlife park and conservation charity, are thrilled to announce that two of our beavers are set to be released to reinforce the population in the Knapdale Forest in Scotland.
Two beavers from Wildwood Trust near Canterbury in Kent will be travelling up to Scotland this week. Eventually up to 28 beavers will be released into the Knapdale Forest over the next three years. The idea behind the project is to boost the numbers of the small beaver population to give it the best possible chance of thriving in the long-term and to increase the genetic diversity.
Lead partners at the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) & Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) have gained a license for this vital work from the Scottish Government recognising the significant contribution beavers will make to our landscape and restoration of wildlife rich wetlands.
Wildwood Trust have been supporting the reintroduction of beaver back to the UK since 1999 when our charity pioneered the first beaver release into the UK with Kent Wildlife Trust. Since that time, we have developed skills in beaver management and Wildwood’s experts have imported Beavers from the most genetically diverse sources in Europe to our Beaver Conservation Centre.
All beavers have had extensive health screening to ensure that they are healthy and free from disease before their release into the wild.
Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust Director said:
“The initial projects to reintroduce beavers at different parts of the UK have now hit a genetic bottleneck and it is vital that these new beavers are released to maintain a healthy population.”
“This is a personal triumph for Wildwood Trust and myself as our charity has been working for 17 years to get beavers back into the British countryside. Wildwood Trust was formed by a group of conservationists directly out of their efforts to bring beavers back to the UK, The Trust’s wider conservation mission is to rewild Britain. “
“Now that the Scottish Government has decided beavers can stay and receive legal protection, we have a duty to reinforce the population and ensure that they have a chance to flourish. By introducing beavers from a range of sources, we aim to increase their genetic diversity and give them the best possible chance of thriving for the long-term.”
Beavers are natural engineers with a unique ability to create new wetland habitats. They can benefit wildlife including otters, water voles, and dragonflies, and long-term research in Tayside has shown how their presence has revitalised previously drained land by doubling the range of plant species.
Beavers were first introduced to Knapdale Forest in April 2009 through the Scottish Beaver Trial. In November 2016 the Scottish Government announced that beavers were allowed to remain and naturally expand from Knapdale and Tayside. This marked the first successful reintroduction of any wild mammal to the UK.
WHY ARE BEAVER SO IMPORTANT TO US
As busy as a Beaver is not an idol term, beaver are a "keystone species" which means beaver act as a natural nature reserve wardens, managing and protecting their surrounding habitat. Their skills as foresters and ecosystem engineers can create and sustain standing water and wetlands that increase biodiversity, purify water and prevent large-scale flooding.
Scientist estimate that in America restoring only 3% of the original, beaver created, wetlands might suffice to prevent catastrophic floods; the same could be true for the UK and beaver could prove to be the best solution to the threat of large scale flooding due to climate change.
Beavers can also save the taxpayer money; a study published in 2007 by the WildCRU consultancy at Oxford University has concluded that the benefit of beaver reintroduction would substantially outweigh likely costs. Sponsored by the Wild Britain initiative, this report examined evidence from several countries across Europe where beaver have recolonised their former territories over the last 60 years.
Substantial benefits could accrue to the tourism industry, particularly for local communities, with further less quantifiable gains from effects on flood mitigation and water retention – both likely to be key features of future land use policy as climate change gathers momentum.
After learning from the many European successes in reintroducing beavers, Kent Wildlife Trust & the Wildwood Trust decided that European Beaver were the best hope to restore the fragile wetland habitat of Ham Fen in Kent. Now Wildwood hopes to recreate the success of this project on a much larger scale by reintroducing beavers to a river system in Wales as part of The Welsh Beaver Project.
This ambitious project is only possible thanks to Government own advisers who have come down on the side of beaver and have recommended that they should be reintroduced to the UK, Scottish Natural History's director of science, Colin Galbraith, said:
"More than 20 other countries, including France, Germany and Denmark have reintroduced beavers and the experience has been very positive. Beavers fit into the landscape very well and in places like Brittany they have become part of the environment, with minimal damage to agriculture and other interests. Beaver dams would improve water quality, produce new habitats for fish and help reduce flooding downstream."
European Beaver, not to be confused with its American cousin, was native throughout Britain until man hunted them to extinction in the 17th Century.
Since that time the beaver was wiped out across mainland Europe. But thanks to the unstinting efforts of conservationists throughout Europe beaver have slowly been reintroduced. Now Britain stands as the last European country to introduce the benefits of having this wonderful creature restoring and managing its natural inland waterways.
KEY BENEFITS OF BEAVER
1. Help save otters, water voles, fish & a huge range of threatened wildlife
2. Protect our land and towns from catastrophic flooding
3. Create diverse wildlife rich wetlands
4. Improves water quality
KEY BEAVER FACTS
1. Beaver eat only plants NOT fish
2. European beaver are completely harmless to man
3. European Beaver have NO significant impact on agriculture
4. Beavers live side by side with man all over the European mainland
Distribution: Throughout Europe and Asia Recently reintroduced across Europe. The European Beaver cousin the North American Beaver exists throughout Canada, USA and Mexico
Main threats: Habitat loss and hunting for the fur trade.
Preferred habitat: rivers, lakes and swamps
Favourite food: aspen and willow bark, freshwater plants and herbs
Size (including tail): 105-130 cm
Life span: 7-8 years
Breeding: Beavers mate for life and kits are born in April or June. Newborn kits are fully furred, and have their eyes open at birth. Average no. young: 3-6 per litter.
At work: Beavers are mainly nocturnal and spend half of their lives on water and half on land. They are prolific builders of lodges and dams, hence the phrase "as busy as a beaver".and can cut down a tree up to 1.5 metres in diameter, although they rarely do this. They can hold breath underwater for up to 15 mins.