Four families of beavers arrived at Heathrow last month, marking the first stage of a landmark project that will see the creatures once again gracing the waterways of Scotland after a 400-year absence. Following a six-month quarantine period, the European beavers, which were chosen from a colony in Telemark in Norway, will be released in Knapdale, mid Argyle, in spring 2009.  

‘Beavers hold the potential to create new wetland habitats that, in turn, increase the appeal to other native species. We are excited to get the trial underway and see what benefits they can bring,’ says Simon Jones, project manager for the trial, which is running in partnership with the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

The beavers will not be fenced in, but essentially left to run wild, and the success of the trial will decide the future of wild beavers in Scotland. But should we be wary of reintroducing a species long after it has departed from our shores?

‘I think a project such as this should be undertaken with some caution,’ says Simon Lester, head gamekeeper on the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project in Scotland. ‘Although I have no objection to the reintroduction of species such as beaver, much of the landscape has changed since they were last here. Plus, there are many other problems facing our fauna, which perhaps ought to be dealt with before reintroducing lost species.’

The news comes at the same time as an announcement that sea eagles extinct in Britain by 1916 may return to East Anglia following a successful pilot scheme in Scotland. The progress of the beavers can be followed at www. scottishbeavers.org.uk