River Otter Beaver Trial voted ‘Wildlife success of the year’
Readers of BBC Countryfile Magazine voted for the River Otter trial, together with the Scottish Beaver Trial, as the Wildlife Success of the Year. The public poll attracted 56,000 votes across 12 categories.
The beavers in the River Otter are the first wild breeding population of the animals to exist in England for 400 years, with one family group discovered on land owned by Clinton Devon Estates. The River Otter Beaver Trial is a partnership of the Estates, the Devon Wildlife Trust, the University of Exeter and the Derek Gow Partnership.
Dr Sam Bridgewater, Conservation Manager for Clinton Devon Estates, said: “There was a lot of stiff competition. The award is testament to the hard work of all the partners involved. Clinton Devon Estates recognises that although management can be an issue, the beavers can have great benefits for wildlife and society and this award is affirmation that these benefits are being recognised nationally. We are very grateful to everyone who has voted for this project.”
Devon Wildlife Trust’s Mark Elliott manages the River Otter Beaver Trial and said: “The BBC Countryfile Award stands as a tribute to the strong partnership we’ve established to conduct the trial.
“Our research is now beginning to show the important role that beavers could play across our wider countryside in improving water quality, mitigating against the worst effects of flooding and drought, and in benefiting other wildlife. The trial has a long way to go, but this is a very public endorsement of the work we’ve done with beavers here in Devon and of the trial that has already been carried out in Scotland.”
A breeding population of beavers was first discovered on the River Otter in 2014. No one knows how the beavers came to be living wild in East Devon. In 2015 Devon Wildlife Trust was granted a five-year licence from Natural England.
This allowed the beavers to remain after they were initially threatened with removal. The licence also allowed the charity to establish a project which will monitor the beavers until 2020 when a decision about their long-term future is to be made by the government.
The University of Exeter’s Prof Richard Brazier, Chair of the River Otter Beaver Trial’s Science and Evidence Forum, said: "Undertaking research into the impacts of beavers is a challenging yet highly rewarding field of study, made all the more fascinating via the genuine partnership approach that Devon Wildlife Trust is leading and the huge interest in this keystone species shown by the general public."
Devon-based mammal expert and project partner Derek Gow said: “I am over the moon that the Devon Beaver Trial has been given this recognition. I have worked with this magnificent species for 22 years. It is just brilliant that BBC Countryfile Magazine have recognised the importance of beavers in the presentation of this award.”
To find out more about our work on the Beaver Project, click here.