“The chance to make history” is the way that TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham is describing a campaign by the Devon Wildlife Trust.
The wildlife charity urgently needs to raise a minimum of £100,000 from a crowdfunding campaign to have a chance of securing the future of England’s only wild population of beavers. The beavers have made their home on the River Otter in East Devon. After being discovered in 2013 the beavers were originally set to be removed by government officials. However, a partnership led by Devon Wildlife Trust and involving local people and local landowner Clinton Devon Estates reversed this decision – but only for a 5 year trial period on a licence granted by Natural England.
This opened the way for Devon Wildlife Trust to launch the River Otter Beaver Trial in 2015, a five-year project which is monitoring the impact of the animals on the local landscapes, communities and wildlife. The Trial involves a lot of wide ranging activities, including:
· monitoring the beavers’ welfare and introducing new animals to the river to keep their small community genetically diverse;
· working with local landowners and others to monitor and manage any impacts the beavers are having on the local landscape;
· and helping schools and other local communities take part in the exciting story unfolding on their doorstep.
All project outcomes have to be fully supported by independent evidence.
The Trial is scheduled to finish in 2020 when the government will make a decision on the beavers’ future. However, Devon Wildlife Trust has to finance the whole of the project’s costs, which are estimated to be nearly £700,000. The charity receives no state funding for the project and now urgently needs to finance its beaver work.
Thanks to Devon Wildlife Trust’s supporters, to date the charity has raised nearly half of this sum, but it still has a way to go, so the charity has now launched a crowdfunding appeal. Crowdfunding allows the public to back your idea with pledges of money. Backers are then ‘thanked’ with rewards that reflect the money contributed.
Devon Wildlife Trust’s Mike Elsey has put the beaver crowdfunding appeal together. He says:
“Rather than a simple plea for donations, we thought we’d do something different for Devon’s wild beavers. We’re asking people to pledge their support and in return we’re offering a range of very special unique beaver-themed rewards.”
These rewards include some highly unusual items. Among them is the chance to own a ‘beaver chip’ – a nibbled chip of wood actually gnawed by a Devon beaver. Other rewards range from a limited edition signed beaver cushion, designed by renowned artist Hugh Dunford Wood, a bespoke tour of the beavers’ river home in the company of an expert guide, a unique River Otter beaver soft toy, and even a personal appearance by ‘Nora’ the Devon Wildlife Trust’s beaver mascot.
Mike Elsey says:
“The rewards we’re offering are only available to people supporting Devon’s wild beavers. Pledges start at as little as £5, with the beaver chips being offered for those pledging £75.”
“Devon’s wild beavers have attracted so much interest, not just in Devon but across the UK and beyond. This is people’s chance to turn this interest into support. This is their opportunity to become part of this unique wildlife story and ensure that these very special animals remain in the wild at least until 2020.”
There are now thought to be around 20 beavers living on the River Otter. They are the first wild beavers in England for 400 years after the last populations were hunted to extinction. This summer beavers living near the East Devon village of Otterton drew hundreds of visitors all hoping to see a family which had had five kits (baby beavers).
Chris Packham has decided to back the crowdfunding appeal. The TV presenter and naturalist is fronting a video for Devon Wildlife Trust. In it Chris says:
“We have just four years in which to work with local people to prove to the government that beavers are good for the environment and can live in harmony with local people. If we don’t then the beavers will be removed.
“I have to tell you this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to help a magnificent and long lost mammal to thrive again.”
Chris Packham signs off with a direct appeal to the public:
“Please donate today to give Devon’s beavers a chance and to play a role in one of the most exciting conservation projects of the twentieth-first century. You never know it might pave the way for other native species to return to the UK.”
People wishing to support Devon’s wild beavers should visit www.supportdevonbeavers.org There they can watch Chris Packham’s video appeal and find out about the range of unique beaver rewards being offered to people who pledge support.