You’ve probably noticed that beavers have been in the spotlight of late and have received lots of well-earned media attention. Our Scottish beavers were finally granted legal protection in 2016 and numerous beaver projects are now cropping up across the rest of the UK, hoping for the same outcome. This is fantastic to witness and an important step towards rewilding our landscape.
Beavers were ruthlessly hunted to extinction in the 1600’s for their fur and meat – so one could argue there’s a case for beaver reintroduction on moral obligation alone. However, beavers also happen to be vitally important ecosystem engineers. By reconstructing their habitats through felling and damming they maintain and create whole new wetland systems. This is shown to hugely increase biodiversity and have a particularly positive effect on dragonflies.
Not only are beavers beneficial for wildlife, they assist humans by providing free and natural ecosystem services. Their dams and channels create a natural flood defence by holding back water during heavy rainfall – minimising the effects downstream. This retention of water also helps sustain the flow in periods of low rainfall. Wetland habitats are a natural purification system; removing pollutants from agricultural run-off, resulting in reduced contamination of our rivers.
In addition to saving money on flood defences and water filtration, beavers have huge potential for bringing in money through eco-tourism. We are slowly but surely entering a time of changed opinion – where landowners are beginning to realise that wildlife is worth far more to us alive than dead. Reintroduction schemes across Europe have shown increased revenue and employment rates in remote areas that need it most.
Both Scotland and England already have established beaver populations, so I’ve recently been working with the Welsh Wildlife Trust to help fundraise for their beaver project. They are seeking funding to obtain a license to release beavers and run their own trial. Below is a special drawing I produced for them – 40% of profits from each print sale will be donated.
I thoroughly hope that England will follow suit and that its beavers will soon enjoy the same protection as their Scottish cousins. Returning beavers to their rightful place is more than reintroducing just one animal – it’s about restoring whole ecosystems.