Tuesday, 2 September 2014

On the River Otter: Defra and the beavers: "the laying of the traps is imminent…"

There has been a huge amount of interest in the beavers on the River Otter:
Futures Forum: On the River Otter: Devon Wildlife Trust consultation to discuss beavers: Ottery St Mary: "overwhelming support"
Futures Forum: On the River Otter: Devon Wildlife Trust consultation to discuss beavers: Ottery St Mary: "overwhelming support": more reports
Futures Forum: On the River Otter: Devon Wildlife Trust consultation to discuss beavers: Ottery St Mary: "overwhelming support": reports from Devon Wildlife Trust

There has been a lot of concern:

UK beavers face being wiped-out for second time

By Western Daily Press | Posted: August 27, 2014

Wildlife 'control' could mean the beaver is lost from the English landscape before it gets re-established, writes beaver expert Derek Gow, who is against their removal.

The beavers on the River Otter in Devon cannot know they are about to participate in a remarkable historic event, their removal at the hand of Defra's trappers which will ensure that they become the first ever native English mammal to have been exterminated by humans twice.

This sad scenario is unnecessary, unfair and ill-considered. The arguments advanced for their removal by Defra are threadbare. The principal contention that they may harbour a non-native tape worm – Echinococcus multilocularis (EM) – which can infect humans, is supported by the facile excuse that English habitats are unsuitable for beavers and that they have no licence to be there.

Defra's own vets are clear that only adult beavers imported directly from some central European countries can carry EM. In 2008 an independent feasibility study commissioned by Natural England indicated that many English river systems could provide ideal habitat for beavers. Nothing much has changed since then. Devon Wildlife Trust has agreed to apply for a licence for them to be there but despite this Defra are still insistent they must go. Why?

The only discernible clue is provided in the haste with which a letter from the Angling Trust to Owen Patterson on May 20 asking for their removal was answered positively by the minister responsible, Lord De Mauley, on June 26. It is the stated belief of some members of the Angling Trust that beaver dams will impede the migratory abilities of game fish species. This belief is incorrect as beaver-generated habitats create a rich living environment for both aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates.

To date despite media attention, representations to senior civil servants and ministers, national petitions with over 30,000 signatures Defra has, in my opinion, made no effort to attain or consider a balanced approach on this issue.

UK beavers face being wiped-out for second time | Western Daily Press

The Express & Echo ran a story today on the response from Ottery:

Ottery Town Council pledges support for wild beaver family to remain in the River Otter

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: September 02, 2014

The wild River otter beavers

Comments (1)

OTTERY Town Council has pledged its support for a family of beavers, whose future hangs in the balance, to be allowed to remain on the banks of the River Otter downstream.

At the full council meeting on Monday, September 1, there was a unanimous vote among town councillors for the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) to leave them be.

Last month, at a Devon Wildlife Trust organised events, there was massive local opposition against Defra’s proposals to remove the beavers from the river banks so they can be tested for the unlikelihood that they are carrying disease.

Defra confirmed that the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency has been tasked to lay the traps, but refused to comment on when they might be laid or the process thereafter, for example how often the traps will be checked.

Ottery ward member, Councillor Roger Giles had requested that the council discussed and gave its backing to the beavers and proposed that the council ask East Devon MP Hugo Swire, to insist that DEFRA return the beavers to the river as soon as they have been tested.

Once native to the UK, beavers were hunted to extinction 500 years ago, and it is still unknown how they made their return to the wild on the banks of the river.

After they came to Defra’s attention around seven months ago, the department announced its controversial decision in July to remove and rehome the beavers because of the risk of disease and the negative impact they could have on the landscape.

Defra officials confirmed there is a low chance the beavers may carry Echinococcus multilocularis disease and because the animals have not been established in Britain for so long, it was necessary to assess their impact.

But critics of the proposals believe that the suggestion of rounding up the beavers is an “overreaction”, and the benefits they bring to the environment, far outweigh any negatives they may be culpable for.

Ottery Council pledges support for River Otter wild beaver family to remain | Exeter Express and Echo

Ottery Cllr Claire Wright has written to East Devon's MP Hugo Swire:

Hugo Swire asked to invite DEFRA officials to Ottery meeting about beavers

Monday, 01 September 2014 1 Comment by Claire

I have sent the following email to East Devon MP, Hugo Swire about the beavers. We believe that the laying of the traps is imminent…

I have also tweeted twice at DEFRA and new environment secretary Liz Truss, asking for assurances that the beavers would be quickly returned to the river. But radio silence has ensued.

Express & Echo reporter, Fran McElhone was also snubbed by DEFRA, when she asked about Ms Truss’s views on the beavers living on the Otter.

Officials refused to pass on Fran’s message to the secretary of state and refused to tell her why!

The secretive way that DEFRA is handling this issue doesn’t give me any confidence whatsoever that it has any intention of returning the animals to the river.

I hope I am wrong.

Dear Hugo, I wonder if you have had chance to consider this proposal yet? I am keen to get things moving because I believe that DEFRA intends to trap the beavers soon.

Kind regards

From: Claire Wright [mailto:claire@claire-wright.org]
Sent: 23 August 2014 09:56
To: ‘swireh@parliament.uk’

Subject: DEFRA officials meeting at Ottery about plans for the beavers

Dear Hugo

I have been asked by an Ottery resident, Tom Buckley, if I would organise a meeting in the town for DEFRA officials to come along to talk to local people about the government’s plans for the beavers. I believe that Tom also sent you a message about this.

Tom is an environmental scientist and has spent much time filming and studying the animals that are on the river Otter. He is understandably keen to ensure that DEFRA are communicating with local people about what will happen to the animals and when they will be returned to the river. It may also be helpful for DEFRA to speak to residents directly about the reasons they are carrying out this action – many people are baffled as to why the beavers are being removed from the river.

I am more than happy to make the necessary arrangements so that the meeting can go ahead, if you would be good enough to liaise with the relevant DEFRA staff on suitable dates.

I would be grateful if a visit could be arranged sooner, rather than later, as my understanding is that the beavers capture will be organised shortly.

I would have thought that a date in September would be in everyone’s interests.

Many thanks for your help.

Claire Wright
Independent Devon County and East Devon District Councillor

No comments: