The environmental charity Friends of the Earth has warned that government plans to capture wild beavers living on a river in Devon could be illegal under European laws.
FoE’s legal team has written to the environment secretary, Liz Truss, calling for the trapping of the animals, thought to be the first to live in the wild in England in centuries, to be halted.
The charity argues that because Britain formed part of the beaver’s natural range before they were hunted to extinction they are covered by EU laws governing protected species.
FoE campaigner Alasdair Cameron said: “Beavers belong in England. Beavers bring huge benefits to the environment, reducing flooding and boosting fish stocks and biodiversity. Rather than try and get rid of them, we should be thrilled to have them back in our landscape.”
Most people who live near the beavers’ home on the river Otter appear to back the creatures’ right to stay. But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) plans to trap the colony and transfer the mammals to a zoo or wildlife park, arguing they are an invasive non-native species and could carry disease. There are no plans to cull the beavers.
Cameron said: “The government needs to listen to what local people are saying, instead of taking a knee-jerk response. This is a fantastic opportunity to study the return of a beautiful and iconic creature. The government says it needs to remove these beavers because of the threat of disease, but that’s just an excuse. They are very unlikely to be carrying infection. In any case they could be easily tested and returned to the river.”
FoE says under article 12 of the EU habitats directive the UK government is required to protect beavers “in their natural range” and is not entitled to kill or capture them.
It argues that the historic prevalence of beavers, the success of reintroduction programmes – one official, one unofficial – in Scotland and the fact that the animals are doing well in Devon backs the notion that the UK certainly is their natural range.
Tom Buckley, a retired environmental scientist who photographed beavers on the river Otter, said he was delighted that FoE was joining the campaign.
However, Defra insists trapping beavers is lawful because they have not been an “established part” of British wildlife for 500 years.
A spokesperson said: “Their presence could have a negative impact on the surrounding environment and wildlife. These animals may also carry a disease which could pose a risk to human health. That is why we are taking precautionary action to test the beavers. Once captured and tested, we intend to re-home them in a suitable location, and all decisions will be made with the welfare of the beavers in mind.”
The spokesman said trapping was “entirely lawful” and licences to capture and transport the beavers had been issued by Natural England.
Article taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/25/wild-beavers-devon-uk-eu-habitats-directive
– – – – – – – – – – – –
Do you have an opinion on this post? Anything you’d like to share?
Just click the heart icon on the top left of this blog post to leave your comments.