Reintroductions of native species

Beavers © Steven Gardner

We are generally supportive of the reintroduction of native species in Scotland, but this is on a case-by-case basis, when carried out following public engagement and in accordance with wildlife law and international standards.

The issue

There is currently much public interest in Scotland regarding the reintroductions of certain native species, such as the beaver, lynx and wolf.

Some of these reintroductions have already been the subject of scientific studies, while others are private initiatives or even accidental releases.

Historically, we have been supportive of the Scottish Beaver Trial but have opposed the much-publicised, controversial plans to reintroduce wolves within a fenced enclosure at the Alladale Estate in Sutherland. Read more about Alladale here.

Our position

We support Article 22 of the European Habitats Directive, which allows for the reintroduction of individual native species.

However, any reintroduction requires proper studies to be made by the government, led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in accordance with IUCN guidelines and the Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations. They must also follow widespread stakeholder engagement. 

Our decision on whether to support these individual reintroductions will be based upon the evidence of these studies. It was agreed at our annual conference in 2006 that while we would not actively campaign on the introduction or re-introduction of wild animals, we would respond to issues as they arose based on the evidence available.

As a result, we expressed our support for the reintroduction of beavers into Scotland at Knapdale in a programme proposed by SNH, and gave our support to a joint statement from non-governmental organisations, calling for beavers to be recognised as native species and fully reintroduced into Scotland. This has now been achieved.

Government action

The government confirmed in 2016 that it would recognise the Eurasian beaver as a resident native species in Scotland, but that any population would be actively managed and it would remain an offence to release any beavers without a licence.

The proposed wolf enclosure at Alladale 
Full position statement on Eurasian beaver reintroductions

Updated February 2019