Beaver family moved to Loch Lomond to boost population after extinction - why are they ‘nature’s engineers’?

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Beavers became extinct in Great Britain in the 16th century, but have now be reintroduced in three sites across Scotland

A pair of beavers and their five young offspring have been moved to Loch Lomond as part of efforts to boost biodiversity and the population of “nature’s engineers”.

They have been moved from an area in Tayside where beaver activity was having a serious impact.

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The beavers were released on Friday (27 January) at the Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve (NNR) after a series of health tests and checks. The NNR is jointly managed by RSPB Scotland, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority and NatureScot.

The move comes after the Scottish Government in late 2021 announced its support for translocation - which involves safely trapping and moving the animals to a more suitable area, rather than culling them when they cause problems.

Loch Lomond is only the third location in Scotland where a beaver translocation has taken place since the initial beaver reintroduction trial at Knapdale in Argyll began in 2009.

PA

‘Nature’s engineers’

Anne McCall, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “We are delighted to have been able to offer a home to this family of beavers, speeding up their return to Loch Lomond. The National Nature Reserve, with its mix of open water, fen and wet woodland is a perfect place for them.

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“As nature’s engineers they manage and create habitat in ways we could never hope to replicate. We are looking forward to seeing the many benefits this should bring to other wildlife, from birds to dragonflies, fish to frogs, both on our nature reserve and in the wider NNR.”

The licence to move beavers to Loch Lomond was granted late last year by government agency NatureScot.

The family of beavers were captured and then underwent a series of health checks and tests at the Five Sisters Zoo in West Lothian.

They were held there until the release day, and they will now be closely monitored to see how they settle in and begin to modify the wetland. Water levels will be monitored, camera traps will be used to track the beavers and there will also be mapping field signs of beaver activity.

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Gordon Watson, chief executive at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, said: “These are not our first beavers – beavers have already been moving into other areas of the National Park for many years now and surveys show that they are likely to thrive in the habitat around Loch Lomond. Evidence shows that beavers can co-exist with us in modern landscapes and bring multiple benefits, from creating wetland habitats that support multiple species to helping mitigate flooding.”

NatureScot chief executive Francesca Osowska said the release marks “an important step in helping to restore biodiversity and respond to the climate emergency in Scotland”.

‘This once-lost species were driven to extinction in Scotland’

Scottish Minister for Biodiversity, Lorna Slater, was among the 10 people present as the beavers were released.

She said: “This once-lost species were driven to extinction in Scotland, but are becoming an established part of our natural environment once again. Through translocation projects like this one, beavers are slowly being reintroduced across the country and helping to promote biodiversity and restore nature.

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“Now children growing up in Scotland will grow up alongside beavers – learning about the amazing things that they do, like natural flood management, and creating wetland habitats that support a range of other species.

“This represents an amazing story of regaining something that was lost, of getting that abundance back and passing on a nature-positive legacy for future generations.”

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