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Working together for Cornish beavers

Posted: Wednesday 10th May 2017 by CornwallBeaverProject

Photo by Nick Upton / naturepl.com

In his second blog, Peter Cooper delves into how co-operation is key, as demonstrated by the Cornwall Beaver Project.

Undoubtedly, wildlife conservation is as much about the human element as it is the natural world. Allowing nature to flourish within a changing world requires a huge amount of people skills to get things done, and in many cases, work with others from very different backgrounds and sometimes conflicting opinions.

Beaver reintroduction is a prime example, and the sociological and political story of the Devon Wildlife Trust’s River Otter beaver trial is explored in a new paper published by University of Exeter scientists based at Cornwall’s very own Penryn Campus (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0308518X17705133). While the beavers paddle their way downstream or gnaw on branches of willow each evening, they do so oblivious to the discussions and debates playing out dramatically behind the scenes that are essential to their future in the UK.

Understandably many farmers have significant concerns about beaver reintroduction, yet the idea behind the Cornwall Beaver Project came individually from farmer Chris Jones some time ago. Chris and his wife Janet run Woodland Valley, 170 acres of land just north of Ladock, near Truro, that has been in Chris’ family for three generations since 1960. Woodland Valley is also a Soil Association-certified organic farm, with a philosophy of farming in a way which is sympathetic to the environment for the benefit of land, wildlife and local communities.

It’s from this philosophy that the idea of having large, re-established rodents swimming through Woodland Valley’s streams and ponds came about. Like many other vulnerable areas, the downstream village of Ladock has been hit by dramatic flooding events following strings of increasingly wet winters. At the same time, the potential benefits of beaver-created wetlands in relieving such events has received a lot more attention in both the scientific literature and the media (there will be more on this in a future blog), so the possible ecological service these animals could provide for Chris and Janet’s neighbours seemed too enticing not to investigate.

These goals will supplement other beaver trials occurring in the UK, but another key aim of the project will be to demonstrate to other farmers, town and rural dwellers alike how beavers could once again be part of the British countryside. Rather than being kept behind closed doors, it’s hoped that the beavers can tie into Woodland Valley’s existing aims of connecting people back to the land and nature, and be shown as an essential missing link in our wildlife.

Despite the belief of many that beavers require largely untouched nature to thrive, experience from Europe shows that beavers will quite happily set up shop wherever there is a suitable water-course, which can include agricultural land, suburbia and even outside people’s gardens! While of course this does lead to conflict on occasion if beavers flood the ‘wrong area’, mitigation measures show we can co-habit with these animals in return for the wildlife rich habitats and flood alleviation they provide – if we as a society want them to.

It’s this ‘want them to’ that is so important, and if the people aren’t behind you, all the ecological and hydrological arguments can just fall flat. The beaver’s return to Woodland Valley won’t just be for the animal’s own benefit. It’ll be a reminder of how to live with this animal in Britain once again.

You can play your part in helping bring beavers back to Cornwall, and win the chance to see the release yourself, by donating to our crowdfunder campaign here.

Read CornwallBeaverProject's latest blog entries.

Comments

    I think you have struck several chords with this blog entry Peter. On the one hand trialling the idea that beavers, once abundant in our landscape, is just a small thing, involving small rodents and already examined in the Britain. But, on the other this is a really big deal, letting us I hope see in slow time over a period of years what positive things can accrue by rebuilding just one little bit of what living in a real eco-system can be like. probably the most positive thing that can result from this event is a growing sense of wonder and delight in the minds of the public at large in the significance of letting nature into their lives. That sounds a bit hippy, but is none the worse for that.

    Friday 12th May 2017
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I think you have struck several chords with this blog entry Peter. On the one hand trialling the idea that beavers, once abundant in our landscape, is just a small thing, involving small rodents and already examined in the Britain. But, on the other this is a really big deal, letting us I hope see in slow time over a period of years what positive things can accrue by rebuilding just one little bit of what living in a real eco-system can be like. probably the most positive thing that can result from this event is a growing sense of wonder and delight in the minds of the public at large in the significance of letting nature into their lives. That sounds a bit hippy, but is none the worse for that.

Friday 12th May 2017
by

Post new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.