After the badger cull, is Defra planning to kill Devon’s beavers?

 

A A A

The first confirmed sighting of wild beavers in England in hundreds of years delighted environmentalists.

But now the future of the family of beavers caught on film in the River Otter in Devon in February looks perilous, as campaigners fear the Government is drawing up plans to trap and cull them.

There have been huge successes reintroducing the dam-building mammals in Scotland in recent years, but campaigners say the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is in danger of sending the animal “back to the stone age” with its approach in England.

The Independent understands the warning from campaigners came after Defra contacted quango Natural England to investigate the beaver population at the Devon site and contacted experts to discuss “health screening work”, with one option on the table being a trap and cull policy.

Derek Gow, an independent ecologist who studies beavers, said he feared Defra was using the threat of a rare parasite tapeworm found in the European beaver, called Echinococcus Multilocularis (EM), as a “smokescreen” to remove the three animals found in Devon.

Beavers can host the destructive parasite, which is common in central Europe, but the origin of the beavers on the River Otter isn’t known and trapping and testing may be difficult, traumatic, and kill any young, says Gow.

A spokesperson for the animal charity PETA said: “The mere suggestion that we should kill beavers in one part of the country while reintroducing them in another is absurd. We’ve already seen with the badger slaughter how the Government’s kneejerk and trigger-happy responses to wildlife issues work out.”.

Roison Campbell-Palmer, who is part of a Royal Zoological Society of Scotland team running a five-year long trial to reintroduce beavers to the Scottish Highlands, added that there was only “a very small chance” that the animals Devon had been imported from high-risk EM areas, while other environmentalists point to a 2012 Defra report which found the risk of transmission of the parasite to UK wildlife was “very low”.

“Trapping and culling these animals would be an appalling thing to do. The risk of this parasite is very small as it is only found in directly imported adult animals,” said Mr Gow, who is a committee member of the Beaver Advisory Committee for England. “The real reason Defra wants to trap them or kill them has nothing to do with beavers… it’s to do with pressure from a small minority of angling organisations. “

The Angling Trust says its members need more beavers “like we need a hole in the head” and maintains that its members have the “right” to shoot them as an invasive species. Mark Lloyd, the body’s chief executive, said: “The release of these beavers has not been formally sanctioned and they should be removed.”

In the village of Ottery St Mary, on the River Otter, locals are appalled at the rumoured Defra plans. District councillor Clair Wright said the animals had been “universally welcomed” and that she was “horrified” as the prospect of trapping or a cull. David Lawrence, whose farms sits alongside the animal’s lodge, told The Independent that he “would not allow Defra to destroy the animals”.

A Defra spokesperson, said: “Beavers have not been an established part of our wildlife for the last 500 years. Our landscape and habitats have changed since then and we need to assess the impact they could have.

“There are no plans whatsoever to cull beavers. We are currently working out plans for the best way forward and any decision will be made with the welfare of the beavers in mind.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Property

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: KENT MARKET TOWN - An exciting new role has ar...

Financial Accountants, Cardiff, £250 p/day

£180 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountants - Key Banking...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices