• Devon beavers: Government raises hopes of re-release

    14th November 2014 | News | Claire
  • The Government has raised the possibility that beavers in Devon could be returned to the wild after they have been tested for disease, Friends of the Earth said today (Friday 14 November 2014).

    In a communication to Friends of the Earth – written in response to the campaign group’s threat to pursue legal action – the Government has set out the first steps in a process that could allow the beavers to be re-released. In particular, the Department for Food and Rural Affairs [DEFRA] revealed that:

    •  It is giving sole responsibility for the potential re-release of the beavers to Natural England, a body which has previously indicated its support for seeing beavers returned to the wild. An application by the Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) for a licence to release beavers into the wild is currently being considered. If successful the River Otter beavers could be released as part of the DWT’s trial.
    •  It is seeking to test the animals for disease near their home on the River Otter, rather than taking them to facilities near York as previously planned. This would make it far easier to re-release the animals.

    The decision represents a significant shift from the Government’s previous position which stated that the beavers could not be allowed to remain and should be removed – effectively rendering them extinct in the wild in England for a second time.

    The policy changes comes after months of campaigning by local activists, and the ongoing threat of legal action from Friends of the Earth. Over nine thousand Friends of the Earth supporters have already contacted beaver minister Lord de Mauley expressing their support for the Devon beavers.

    The environmental campaign group is considering its next steps following this response.

    Friends of the Earth campaigner Alasdair Cameron, welcomed the move, saying:

    “We’re delighted that the Government appears to be listening to local people who want these beavers to swim freely in their rivers.

    “These are positive steps in the right direction – but until this issue is resolved, we will continue to make the case for these beavers to remain free. 

    “Beavers are a protected, native species, and testing them and re-releasing them into the wild would absolutely be the sensible thing to do.

    “Allowing beavers to remain in the wild in England would bring major benefits – such as boosting fish stocks, improving our waterways and bringing a bit more happiness to our countryside.“

    Photograph:  The River Otter.