After the depressing news this week (here) of the killing of one of the only Golden Eagles present in the Scottish Borders, come two bits of news which will cheer not only all true countrymen but also anyone who is in the least bit genuinely interested in the well-being and variety of our flora and fauna (as opposed to those who simply and cynically use it as a vehicle from which they might better grind their axes) and would like to see some extinct species reintroduced to enrich our landscape.

Regular readers will know two things. Firstly that I loathe the EU and all its perfidious works and long for the day when our Nation reclaims its complete freedom from the thrall-collar placed upon us by the EuroNabobery. Secondly that for both romantic and sound practical reasons I support the wholesale restoration of species which were formerly native to these islands but which man has driven over the cliff of extinction (see here & here ).

In view of the former observation it will doubtless come as a surprise, therefore, that I exempt from it the EU HABITATS DIRECTIVE (92/43/EEC) which, by Article 22, requires member states of the EU:

To study the desirability of re-introducing species in Annex IV that are native to their territory where this might contribute to their conservation, provided that an investigation, also taking into account experience in other Member States or elsewhere, has established that such re-introduction contributes effectively to re-establishing these species at a favourable conservation status and that it takes place only after proper consultation of the public concerned;

Although there are smaller creatures involved in this process, the ones which catch the public imagination the best are the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus), the European Lynx (Lynx lynx), the European Beaver (Castor fiber), the European Moose (elk) (Alces alces alces) and maybe even the Brown bear (Ursus arctos). As to birds, recent reintroductions have focused on large species such as the White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) and the Great Bustard (Otis tarda).

First up, then, is the industrious beaver. A previous scheme to reintroduce the beaver to Scotland bit the dust in 2005 but now a more forward looking and imaginative SNP environment minister, Mike Russell, has indicated that he is in favour of the scheme. Rightly he is following strictly the procedure for getting such a scheme under way. Plans are now being drawn up by the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (ZSS) with help and support from Scottish Natural Heritage which advises the Scottish Parliament on environmental issues. As the Daily Telegraph reports (HERE):

Simon Milne, the SWT chief executive, said they welcomed Mr Russell’s “positive comments” and were in discussion with other partners to ensure Scottish government support “is harnessed so that this project can be moved forward as quickly as possible.”

“The beaver is a keystone species whose re-introduction can bring a wide range of benefits to the countryside, including improving the ecology of Scotland’s wetland habitats and associated birds, insects, fish and animals, reducing downstream flooding and improving water quality.”

So there is now a realistic prospect of the beaver’s return. We shall, I believe, all ultimately be enriched by this move.

Not all agree, of course, but the reasons advanced are sometimes worryingly Luddite and unimaginitive in tone. Thus David Linton, Chairman of the Scottish Crofting Foundation:

“Beavers may have lived in Scotland hundreds of years ago but we don’t believe in turning the clock back”, he said. “We may as well also bring back wolves and bears, turn people off the land and turn the region into one big zoo.

I cannot see the point of re-introducing something you cannot eat. In my view it would be better if the government spent the money that would go into this project on teaching young people to farm.”

As I say, quite unimaginative and bone-headed.

The second good news story concerns the White-Tailed Eagle, a successful reintroduction of which has taken place in the Western Isles. A similar scheme for its reintroduction is under way on Scotland’s Eastern Coast according to this report (here) from The Scotsman and appears to be going well.

The White Tailed Eagle can exist in a greater variety of habitats than the Golden Eagle and it is to be hoped that perhaps the experiment might soon be extended to England. What a sight it might be in the Dales or on Exmoor or in the Brecon Beacons to have eagles aloft once more! Interestingly one local farmer in Scotland has already seen one of the advantages of the reintroduction:

Meanwhile, at least one farmer near the release area has already noted that when new arrivals appear, his crop fields become hearteningly crow and pigeon-free.

I am fortunate to live in East Northamptonshire, close to the site of a successful reintroduction of the Red Kite (Milvus milvus ) (see here & here). What an astonishing sight it is to be walking the Truffle Hound and to have within one’s view, on a fine winter’s day, between twenty and forty of these magnificent birds at once as they circle their winter roosting area.

Mr. Linton would doubtless be lemon-suckingly disapproving. To borrow one of Boris’ favourite phrases, I say: “Phooey!”

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