Environmental groups question delay in beaver protection

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 21 December 2018 in News

Groups warn “the clock has run out” and that “without this protection, beavers are subject to unregulated culling, which can take place anytime, anywhere”

Image credit: Steve Gardner

A group of environmental campaigners have urged Nicola Sturgeon to set a firm date on granting European Protected Species status to beavers in Scotland.

The Scottish Government last year pledged to secure protected status for beavers within the first six months of 2018, but with the required legislation yet to be introduced to Holyrood, conservationists have said it is “hard to understand the reason for the delay”.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced that the date for the new protections coming into place would depend on a strategic environmental assessment process which was out for consultation on 12 December 2017.

But a year on, environmental experts have used a joint letter, published in the Guardian, to warn that “the clock has run out” and that “without this protection, beavers are subject to unregulated culling, which can take place anytime, anywhere”.

There are thought to be more than 400 wild beavers in the southern Highlands and Tayside, with the Scottish Government consultation finding that 83 per cent of respondents backed their reintroduction.

Susan Davies, Director of Conservation, Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “In November 2016, through the leadership of the Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, the Scottish Government took the landmark step of supporting the reintroduction of beavers, marking the first successful reintroduction of a formerly extinct mammal in the UK.

“That decision stemmed from broad agreement between conservationists, farmers and land managers that beavers would be tolerated, their return would be effectively managed, and that the species would be given protected species status under the European Habitats Directive.

“Despite this early leadership, it is now a year since the Cabinet Secretary signalled that legislation to secure European Protected Species status for beavers would be laid down in Parliament in early 2018, and there has been no firm update on the timetable since then. Without protection beavers are subject to unregulated culling, which raises questions about their welfare and how they are being prevented from naturally spreading throughout Scotland.”

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