May 10 2012 by Clare Damodaran, Blairgowrie Adv
CAMPAIGNERS for the Tayside beavers are concerned by rumours of a possible secret cull of the animals.
Paul Ramsay, chairman of the Scottish Wild Beavers Group (SWBG), which was established to monitor and fight for the protection of the Tay beavers, told the Blairie: “We were very pleased with the public announcement earlier this year from the Scottish Government that the Tay beavers would be studied alongside the existing Knapdale trial.
“However, we were really amazed when two separate land management bodies and some individual gamekeepers said that they had been encouraged by government to kill beavers, but keep quiet about it. One told us: ‘There will likely be a cull. It will just not be announced.’
“We raised the matter with civil servants and while they said that this is not the case, it is still a worrying turn of events and we feel that the people who support the beavers should be aware of this.
“The Habitats Directive requires member states to give full protection to the species when it is established in the wild in its natural range. Both requirements are met by the Tay beavers. A licensed release is not a requirement for legal protection.”
It is thought more than a 100 beavers, the descendants of escaped animals, live and breed in the area.
An official beaver re-introduction trial is under way in Argyll, and the Scottish Government has said the Tay beavers can stay in place until at least 2015, when that trial is due to end.
The Scottish Government denied the claims of a secret cull. In a statement, it said: “During the trial period, beavers do not have full legal protection.
"However, the Scottish government believes that in most cases where there are conflicts with land use, alternative management solutions can be found and does not see any reason at present to support a cull of these animals.”
On the SWBG website, the group says: “We understand that the accidental origin of the Tay beaver population is a worry to government although we would like to confirm that there is no evidence of intentional releases. We would also have preferred to see beavers reintroduced in the first place following IUCN guidelines, but feel that it is unacceptable for there to be a free-for-all approach to this population of returned native animals.
“We are concerned about the fragility of what is still a small population, and the animal welfare implications of killing beavers when they are either pregnant or lactating, or if they are the all-important mate of a lactating female. Beavers mate for life and both parents are involved in the rearing of the kits.”
It also states: “In the meantime we would like to warn anyone who would harm a beaver that there are a whole raft of laws that make it almost impossible do so legally, even under existing Scottish law. There are laws surrounding animal welfare, laws that protect species such as otters and water voles that live alongside beavers, and UK laws which make it illegal to possess a wild beaver, alive or dead. And we would like to point out that many of the beaver families are being closely observed by our members and supporters.
“SWBG understand that there may be some places where beavers are a nuisance and problems cannot be solved by mitigation, and we call upon the government to create a licensing framework that allows for relocation in such instances. Further down the line, when beavers are established in all the suitable habitats, we would be prepared to discuss the use of derogations to allow lethal control in the last resort, under license.
“But in the meantime we would like to see the Scottish Government accept the fact that the Eurasian beaver is now reintroduced to Scotland, and thus to UK and rise to their obligation to provide legal protection to prevent the species being wiped out for a second time.”
Anyone who would like more information about the work of the Scottish Wild Beaver Group can visit their website at http://scottishwildbeavers.org.