Protecting beavers in Tuscany

€50,000 awarded

After 500 years, beavers return to populate Italian rivers. And there is already talk of eliminating them. Let’s stop this barbarity and defend an animal that is rightfully part of our territory!

Since the first sighting in 2018, free beavers have lived between Tuscany and Umbria, having returned to Italy centuries after their disappearance. Beavers have always been part of Italy’s ecology, history and heritage, but they were hunted to extinction and have not been seen since the 1500s.

By building small dams in our rivers, beavers create wetlands, helping to mitigate drought, prevent flash floods, and promote biodiversity. Through these wetlands, beavers breathe life into our landscapes, creating a natural habitat for wildlife of many types. The extraordinary ecological benefits of beavers are appreciated by all European countries, which are taking steps to reintroduce them.

Instead of welcoming the return of this extraordinary species to our rivers, the Undersecretary for the Environment declared that, although it is a native animal of our territory, the uncertainty regarding the dynamics of its introduction in Tuscany and Umbria forces us to assume that this occurred illegally. For this reason, the law is clear: beavers must be removed.

These are drastic, inhumane solutions that do not take into account fundamental factors or the well-documented benefits of beavers on the environment:

– Castor fiber is not an alien species: it was part of the Italian fauna, in well-documented places and ways, until its extinction 500 years ago. It is in all respects a native animal.
– Studies conducted on the beaver population in central Italy have shown that they do not carry parasites or diseases.
– There is no evidence that beavers harm flora or fauna around settlements. On the contrary, in the European countries where they have been reintroduced, they have produced extraordinary benefits, starting with the regulation of drought and floods. There are several studies that demonstrate the fundamental role of the beaver in the regeneration of the natural ecosystem. For example, their activity encourages the rebirth of undergrowth vegetation, increasing the diversity of plant, lichen and bryophyte species and improving feeding opportunities for insectivorous birds and bats.
– Unlike the coypu, a very widespread alien species in Europe, beavers are territorial, which means that their population is naturally self-controlled: each family of beavers occupies one kilometer of territory for itself.

In September we sent a letter to the Environment Department of the European Commission to bring to EU officials’ attention that the Italian Ministry of Environment and Energy Security (MASE) is trying to establish the legal and scientific justifications needed to start the process of eradication of the Eurasian beaver in Tuscany and Umbria. The reason put forward by Italian authorities for the eradication is that the beavers found in these regions are the result of illegal releases, as the areas where they were found turned out to be too far away to be attributed to spontaneous movements from the existing populations in Friuli and South Tyrol. According to Italian law, Article 19 and 20 of Law No. 157 of 1992, regions can intervene to remove species considered exotic (out of natural range) due to the serious impacts that the species is likely to produce on a delicate ecosystem, as well as to related species and habitats, including those of community interest. However, the newly established population of beavers in central Italy does not pose any environmental or social threats. Besides, the Eurasian beaver is listed in Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive: according to Article 12 of the directive, European Member States must establish a strict protection system for the species in its natural range. Indeed, the Eurasian beaver was an endemic species in Italy until it was hunted to extinction in the XVI century. We managed to coalesce a wide coalition of NGOs around our campaign: WWF Italia, Greenpeace Italia, LAV, ENPA, Beavers Trust, among others.

In October, the European Commission responded to our letter by stating that since the “sudden appearance of this species in central Italy is the result of recent illegal re-introductions” and “without a feasibility study and without any proper consultation of the public concerned and have therefore not respected the rules and procedure set by article 22 of the Habitats directive.” Consequently, they consider that “it is for the Italian competent authorities to decide how to deal with this particular case.” TEF and all the letter signatories are disappointed by the response as we still believe that the point regarding the beaver’s “natural range” is unclear. The beaver is undoubtedly a native species to Italy and it has returned to its natural range, therefore we would argue that it should be subject to the same protection it is afforded across the rest of the EU. We also do not believe that one could conclude with certainty that they are the result of illegal reintroductions when beavers are established in every single country that has a land border with Italy and are already making their natural migration across those borders.

Help us protect beavers in Tuscany by signing this petition!


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