Friday, 10 October 2014

On the River Otter: Public Health England is "not convinced that the three Devon beavers necessarily represent a significant increase in overall risk.”

Last month, the national media reported on doubts about the capture of the River Otter beavers:
Futures Forum: On the River Otter: plans to remove beavers "may be illegal"

This month, there has been further doubt cast:

New evidence questions Government plan to trap wild beavers

JAMIE MERRILL Wednesday 08 October 2014

Conservationists have called on the Government to halt its plans to capture England’s only wild beaver population following the publication of new documents which show there is only a small risk that the animals carry disease.

New evidence questions Government plan to trap wild beavers - Environment - The Independent

Wild beavers not serious health risk but still face capture

By Western Morning News | Posted: October 09, 2014

Government plans to capture and test wild Devon beavers have been cast into doubt after documents revealed that officials do not consider the creatures a serious health risk.

Ministers have said they intend to capture and re-home a group of the aquatic mammals living on the River Otter, including their young, which are known as kits. The Government says that the beavers must be captured because they may have the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis.

But information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) and contained in an email from Public Health England (PHE) casts doubt on the claims, according to Friends of the Earth, who made the request.

The communication says the “main risk” of the disease was likely to be from international movements of pets, both legal and illegal. Therefore they are not convinced that the three Devon beavers necessarily represent a significant increase in overall risk,” it adds.

Emails show watchdog does not believe East Devon beavers increase risk to human health from disease | Exeter Express and Echo

Health watchdog contradicts claims Devon beavers pose human health risk

Emails show Public Health England does not believe beavers on river Otter would increase risk to human health from disease

A beaver in a captive beaver trial in Devon. A family of beavers is also in the wild in Devon, which officials plan to trap Photograph: David Plummer/Devon Wildlife Trust

The UK’s health watchdog appears to have privately contradicted claims by the environment department that a family of escaped beavers in Devon pose a risk to human health.

Officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have repeatedly said that the beavers, thought to be the first in the wild in England for centuries, could threaten human health because they may be carrying a disease that the UK is currently free of.

But Defra documents and emails, released under Freedom of Information rules , reveal that while Public Health England (PHE) is concerned about the disease, it does not believe the beavers would increase the risk to human health from the tapeworm, Echinococcus multilocularis (EM).

“PHE accept that the main risk of an incursion is likely to be through international movements of pets, both legal and illegal... Therefore they are not convinced that the three Devon beavers necessarily represent a significant increase in overall risk,” a Defra official emailed colleagues after meeting with Public Health England.

The health watchdog’s view that the beavers on the river Otter would not significantly increase risk was also based on the fact there is a group of around 100 “free-living” beavers in Scotland already, on the river Tay, which Scottish authorities had planned to trap but later decided to leave alone, the email shows.

The documents show that trapping the Devon beavers, most likely in cages that have already been procured, and putting them in captivity, will cost the government nearly £50,000.

Briefing notes also make it clear the three kits (beaver young) that the family produced this summer will be captured too, even though those born in the wild could not be carrying the disease. “We intend to capture all the beavers, including any known to be bred this year (which therefore could not be infected with EM),” officials write.

Alasdair Cameron, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, which claims that trapping the beavers would be unlawful under European legislation, said that trapping the wild-born beavers was disproportionate. “EM from beavers is not the main risk for EM in the UK. There’s a huge trade in smuggled pets, smuggled puppies, that’s a much bigger risk. This [risk of EM] also doesn’t apply to any beavers born in the wild, so trapping the kits would be completely disproportionate. At a time when biodiversity is in freefall, we should be looking to protect these species, not trap them.”

The documents show that doing nothing about the beavers, as many local people including the landowner where they are living appear to want, is not an option Defra is keen on, because it fears that could encourage further illegal releases into the wild.

“Not a preferred option when there is an uncertainty around disease risk. It also sends an unwelcome message that government will take no action where illegal releases occur, potentially encouraging further illegal releases,” says one briefing note.

The material also show that Defra is no wiser than locals and conservationists as to the source of the beavers, despite conducting its own investigations and interviews.

A Defra spokeswoman said: “The beavers may carry a disease which could pose a risk to human health – although this risk is low, we cannot ignore it. That is why we are taking precautionary action to test the beavers. Their presence could also have a negative impact on the surrounding environment and wildlife. Once captured and tested, we intend to rehome them in a suitable location, and all decisions will be made with the welfare of the beavers in mind.”

Health watchdog contradicts claims Devon beavers pose human health risk | Environment | theguardian.com
Health watchdog contradicts claims Ottery beavers pose human health risk - Claire Wright

After an absence of approximately 700 years, wild boar are roaming and breeding in the British countryside once again! For such a large mammal to become accidentally reintroduced into Britain in this day and age is a truly remarkable event, and absolutely fascinating to follow. This short video highlights the controversy that surrounds Britain's free-living wild boar populations.

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