Edinburgh, May 26 : Beavers are going to be re-introduced in Scotland, 400 years after they were hunted to extinction in Britain.
According to a report in The Scotsman, up to four families of European beavers will soon be making their homes in Argyll, after Michael Russell, the environment minister, approved a trial scheme.
The move follows a long-fought campaign by wildlife enthusiasts to bring back an animal which they say will contribute greatly to biodiversity. If successful, it could see other extinct species return to Scotland.
"This is more than just bringing back a single lost species. It's about rebuilding our depleted wildlife communities and re-invigorating the natural dynamics of Scotland's wetland and woodland habitats - to the advantage of existing as well as homecoming species," according to Simon Milne, the Scottish Wildlife Trust's chief executive.
The plan for the restoration of the species came about when the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland joined forces to apply for a licence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act to release beavers into the wild in Scotland.
It is planned that the beavers will be captured this autumn in Norway and placed in quarantine for six months. Three or four families will then be released at lochs in Knapdale, Argyll, next spring.
According to Russell, beavers are charismatic, resourceful little mammals and he fully expects their reappearance in Knapdale to draw tourists from around the British Isles - and even further afield.
"Other parts of Europe, with a similar landscape to Scotland, have re-introduced beavers and evidence has shown that they can also have positive ecological benefits, such as creating and maintaining a habitat hospitable to other species," he said.
The Scottish Beavers Network - an Inverness-shire based group made up of landowners, ecologists, tourist operators and wildlife enthusiasts - has claimed that, since the extinction of beavers in the UK, there has been a major gap in the ecosystem.
It is hoped that now the nocturnal creatures will provide slower-moving water through their dams and lodges, creating new opportunities for aquatic plants to thrive.
Russell has said that Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) would monitor the progress of the new residents over the next five years before a wider re- introduction programme was considered.
The impact the beavers have on the environment and economy will also have a major influence on the final decision according to him.
"For now, though, we should enjoy the sight of beavers roaming wild in Scotland for the first time in more than 400 years," said Russell.