Boost for beavers as project receives £150k

A national charity which aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities in the UK through its work with arts, environmental and community welfare organisations has given a major boost to one of Devon’s most important wildlife projects.

The Peter De Haan Charitable Trust has provided £150,000 of funding to the River Otter Beaver Trial – an East Devon project which is measuring the impact of England’s only breeding population of wild beavers. The funding will be used to support the next three years of the project.

The charity Devon Wildlife Trust is leading the River Otter Beaver Trial, in a partnership which also includes Clinton Devon Estates, the University of Exeter and the Derek Gow Consultancy. Devon Wildlife Trust’s Mark Elliott is the Trial’s manager. He said:

“The generous support of The Peter De Haan Charitable Trust is very welcome. It gives this unique and important project a firm footing. The River Otter Beaver Trial is a vital piece of work which aims to objectively understand what impact beavers will have on the local landscape and its wildlife, along with the impacts that are experienced by local farmers and the wider communities that live along the wonderful River Otter.”

Mark continued:

“Many people may have thought that the main task of the River Otter Beaver Trial ended when Natural England granted its licence in January 2014. However, this just signalled the start of a huge amount of work. The trial involves a great deal of scientific study and working with local communities, as well as animal welfare considerations and practical management. This all costs money. We estimate that the Trial will require around £500,000 during its lifetime to carry out its work. The support of The Peter De Haan Charitable Trust is therefore very good news.”

The Peter De Haan Charitable Trust (PDHCT) was founded in 1999 by businessman and philanthropist Peter De Haan. Since then it has provided £20million to arts, environment and community welfare projects throughout the UK. Peter De Haan, chairman and founder of the Trust said:

"PDHCT has a long history of supporting Wildlife Trusts in their quest to conserve and restore our national landscape. This innovative attempt to revitalise the beaver population in the River Otter has all the elements of a fantastic conversation project: lively community engagement, rigorous scientific monitoring of its progress, and an experienced team to see it through. We wish the Devon Wildlife Trust (and the beavers) every success!"

Eleven wild beavers are thought to be living on the River Otter. The animals and their signs have been seen regularly over the winter months up and down the River Otter from White Bridge, near Budleigh Salterton in the south, to the upper reaches of the river close to the Devon-Somerset border in the north.

The beavers first hit national headlines in 2013 when they were filmed by an amateur film maker. Since then the animals have proved very popular with local people. A series of guided ‘beaver walks’ to see field signs of the animals drew more than 300 people last year. The River Otter Beaver Trial plans to repeat the walks this summer. More details will appear at www.devonwildlifetrust.org