UPDATE 28th January 2015: Beavers living in the River Otter will be allowed to remain in the wild after they have been tested for disease, following a historic decision by Natural England to issue a licence to 're-introduce' the under-threat animals.
The board of Natural England is being urged by Friends of the Earth to allow Devon's beavers to remain in the wild, when it meets tomorrow morning [28 January 2015] to discuss the issue.
The board is due to consider an application by the Devon Wildlife Trust for the managed release into the wild of beavers currently resident in the River Otter. This will allow the animals to be released back into the wild after they have been captured and tested for the rare Echinococcus multilocularis parasite.
In October 2014 Friends of the Earth launched a legal challenge against the Government's plans to put the animals in captivity, arguing that Britain was part of the beavers' natural range – and therefore protected by European law. The challenge is still pending.
The fact that Natural England is being allowed to make this decision represents a significant victory for the campaign, and comes after documents obtained by Friends of the Earth under the Freedom of Information Act showed that the risk from disease was considered to be 'not significant'.
There has been widespread national and local support for the beavers to remain in the wild. Over 10,000 people sent messages to the Minister for natural environment, and at a recent event in the village of Ottery St. Mary more than 100 people turned up, the vast majority in support of the beavers.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Alasdair Cameron said:
"Beavers are a fantastic addition to the British countryside. Natural England must look at the evidence, listen to the overwhelming public support and allow Devon's beavers to remain in the wild.
"These are wonderful animals that bring huge benefits to our countryside. We should be thrilled beavers are back, and not looking for reasons to get rid of them."