Local charity nominated for top BBC Countryfile award

Local conservation charity Devon Wildlife Trust could be in line for a prestigious honour for its work with beavers.

The Trust has been nominated jointly with a similar project in Scotland in the ‘Wildlife Success of the Year’ category of the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2017.

The nomination is recognition of the work being done by Devon Wildlife Trust with the beavers which are living on the River Otter in East Devon. The beavers are thought to be the first wild population in England for 400 years.

The Trust is now hoping that people from across Devon, the South West and beyond will vote in the poll being organised by BBC Countryfile Magazine which will determine the winner.

The Trust’s Steve Hussey said:

“We were delighted to hear the good news of the nomination. Now that public voting has opened we’re urging all beaver supporters to get their votes in either on-line or via a copy of BBC Countryfile Magazine. If we can win it will show public support for these important and fascinating animals.”

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 which 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 project involves several local partners including Clinton Devon Estates, University of Exeter and the Derek Gow Consultancy.

Steve added:

“We’re very proud to be leading the River Otter Beaver Trial. Beavers are remarkable animals which can add to the richness of our countryside’s wildlife and play a part in improving water quality and even help guard against the worst effects of flooding. Beavers went extinct in the UK centuries ago, but now they are back in Devon they have certainly become celebrities attracting many hundreds of people hoping to see them.”

Shortlisting for the BBC Wildlife Magazine Awards was done by a panel of judges which included Bill Bryson, John Craven and Anita Rani. The nomination draws attention to the beavers’ long absence from the UK countryside and the historic work done with the animals both in Scotland and Devon.

The nomination reads:

“These riparian architects were hunted to extinction in Britain 400-500 years ago. Now, thanks to the success of a trial on the Knapdale Estate in Argyll, they’ve been given leave to stay and Government protection [in Scotland], making them the first mammals to be officially reintroduced to the UK landscape. In Devon, a wild breeding population is living on the River Otter and is being monitored by the Devon Wildlife Trust.”

Other nominated projects in the same award category include conservation work done with dormice, cirl buntings, bumblebees and bitterns. Devon Wildlife Trust’s Steve Hussey added:

“All the projects nominated would be worthy winners, but there is something about beavers, the fact that they have been lost for so long and now are back which we feel gives them the edge. Being involved in the project, seeing the animals swimming in a Devon river has been such a thrill – it has meant being a part of an amazing chapter in our country’s natural history. Surely that must be worth people’s vote!”

People can vote in the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2017 by going on-line and picking their winners at www.countryfile.com/awards or by filling out a simple form in the February edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine. The poll ends on 28th February 2017.