"In Bavaria on the upper Danube, beavers have caused immense problems for hydroelectric industries costing millions of pounds a year," said Malcolm. "Beavers are such clever water engineers that when the snows are melting on the Alps there's no problem, but in the summer getting enough water to push through the turbines is difficult. Each beaver colony needs something like a hectare (2.5 acres) of water of a certain depth.
"If it was a proper reintroduction these animals would be released in the Thames Valley, but there would be such an outrage from people with extended gardens, cherished trees, and waterways they would never get away with it," he said.
Fraser denied the beavers would cause devastation. "We carried out considerable research to make sure there was still an ecological niche for beavers in Scotland. They are a missing element of our natural heritage and we are responsible for their extinction. We have fossil evidence and written historical records of beavers in the Highlands around Inverness, Lochaber, and as far north as Caithness.
"We are doing our absolute best to take on people's concerns but they have to remember this is only a trial scheme. If it is a disaster we will stop and abandon any plans to introduce beavers back into the country."
Copyright 2001 The IndependentLondon