Conservationists seeking to reintroduce beavers to Scotland have been delighted by rare footage of two captive-bred beavers successfully pairing.
The beavers had been released in Knapdale Forest in Argyll and Bute as part of ongoing work to bring the species back to the area, and a hidden camera has recorded a pair affectionately grooming each other.
Conservation managers hope Harris, a male born at the Wildwood Trust in Kent, and Alba, a female from Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) Highland Wildlife Park, will eventually breed.
Beavers were absent from the wild in Scotland for more than 400 years and the Scottish Beaver Trial was the first official reintroduction of a mammal to the UK.
Alba and Harris are just two of up to 28 beavers that will be released in Knapdale over three years to help reinforce the population.
Ben Harrower, RZSS conservation programme manager, said: “It’s fantastic to see Alba and Harris getting along so well and I have high hopes that they will breed and produce beaver kits in the future.
“Alba established herself on the lochan after being released in October and, after a health and genetic screening, Harris was deemed to be a potential suitor. We released him in the same location in March and waited to see if they would pair up.
“Post-release monitoring footage showed both beavers doing well, but for months they were not seen together.
“It was only in late June, when Scottish Beavers contractors from the Heart of Argyll Wildlife Association were going through imagery from the lochan, that a video clip was found with them side by side and grooming each other, a great sign that Alba has accepted Harris as a mate.”
The trial is being overseen by Scottish Beavers, a partnership set up between the RZSS and the Scottish Wildlife Trust.
Susan Davies, director of conservation of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “The successful pairing of these two beavers is a fantastic early outcome for the project.
“As nature’s engineers, beavers can bring huge benefits to an area, from flood prevention and improved water quality, to supporting the local economy through increased tourism, so reinforcing the population in Knapdale is a hugely worthwhile effort.”