Position Statement from Scottish Wildlife Trust and Royal Zoological Society of Scotland on the Scottish Government decision concerning the future status of the Eurasian beaver in Scotland
As the two lead partners in the Scottish Beaver Trial, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust believe that the Eurasian beaver should be fully recognised by the Scottish Government as a resident, native species in Scotland.
It is now eight months since Scottish Natural Heritage delivered its Beavers in Scotland report to the Scottish Government, outlining four possible future scenarios for the beaver in Scotland. We are firmly of the view, supported by extensive scientific evidence, that beavers will be a key asset to Scotland and are now urging the Scottish Government not to delay any longer in making a positive decision on the restoration of this species to Scotland.
We believe augmenting and managing the current population in Tayside and beaver families in mid-Argyll is urgently needed to secure the genetic health and long-term viability of these colonies. We also strongly advocate for further licensed releases across other appropriate areas of Scotland in order to restore this once widespread species and minimize the risk of genetic in-breeding and local extinctions.
The decision has now become urgent as animals are currently being indiscriminately culled on Tayside. The indiscriminate nature of this culling has led to well-publicised animal welfare concerns and, in the medium term, could threaten the existence of local populations.
There is also a particular urgency to enhance the small number of beavers at the Scottish Beaver Trial site at Knapdale with additional animals to ensure the viability of the population in the long term.
Scientific evidence shows that the return of the beaver will help to restore our depleted wetland ecosystems, assisting in the delivery of the 2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity, and bring a range of other social, economic and environmental benefits.
We understand that the Scottish Government’s consideration of the future of beavers has involved listening to the views of a wide variety of stakeholders. We support this inclusive approach and are keen to continue dialogue on finding sustainable ways of managing localised impacts beavers may have, but strongly contend this should not be an excuse for delaying a decision on the future of beavers in Scotland still further.
Our position is supported by the majority of people in Scotland. In a survey of 1,652 Scottish adults carried out by YouGov on behalf of the Scottish Beaver Trial in March 2014, 60% favoured the return of beavers to Scotland, with only 5% opposed. Opinion surveys in mid-Argyll, where beavers have been resident for over five years, have public support at over 80%.
We look forward to the Scottish Government reaching a positive decision in the very near future on the restoration of beavers to Scotland.
Jonny Hughes, Chief Executive, Scottish Wildlife Trust
Chris West, Chief Executive, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland