The Beavers of the River Otter in Devon have been under threat of being “rehomed” in a zoo, thanks to pressure from The Angling Trust (no beavers do not eat fish). This was partly due to paranoia that the beavers may harbour a very nasty parasite called Echinococcus multilocularis. This was used previously as an excuse to evict the beavers.
However, it later emerged that Public Health England had already advised Defra that there risk of human infection was so low as to be discounted.
Now Defra is visibly shifting its position, under pressure from Friends of the Earth who are threatening legal action, and Devon Wildlife Trust who have applied for a licence to monitor the released Beavers. The landowner on which the Beavers live, the local community and the public at large all want the Beavers to be left alone.
Defra has now stated that
Our priority has been to ensure humane treatment for the beavers while safeguarding human health, so we’ll be testing the beavers close to the River Otter which will be better for their welfare than moving them elsewhere.
“We have a licence to capture the beavers, which we need to do to test them humanely for the disease EM (Echinococcus multilocularis) which has the potential to be very harmful to human health should it become established in the UK.”
She said that the government agency Natural England was “expected to make a decision soon” on an application by Devon Wildlife Trust for the beavers to be released if clear of the disease.
Judging by correspondence released following an FoI request, it seems that Defra is happy for the Otter Beavers to be tested for EM at AHVLA’s labs in Weybridge, rather than being taken to their HQ in York. Even so, this is likely to place the animals under considerable stress. Let us hope that they are not too traumatised by the experience.
Could we be seeing Defra take some sensible decision-making about wild mammals in England, thanks to the high priest of the badger sacrifice cult, Owen Paterson, being removed? Hopefully. But let’s not get too excited.