· Naturefund

Beavers in Hesse for 25 years – a success story

The 13th of October 2012 was an important date for the beavers in Hesse: on this date, 25 years ago, the first of 18 animals were released into the wild in Spessart. In the picture on the left you can see a profile of one of the 'founding fathers' of the beaver population in Hesse.

Hunted, wiped out, returned

The beaver was already extinct in Hesse by 1800, as a result of being hunted, quite intensively over hundreds of years. People used their meat as 'Lenten food' as beavers counted as fish, and believers were allowed to eat fish during lent. Their thick coats were in high demand for hats, and their glandular-secretion, known as castorium, was used as a 'miracle cure'. However, it was not only in Hesse – but in the whole of Central Europe, where the beaver was mercilessly hunted until it was almost completely extinct. It was only in France, Sweden and Poland where small populations of the European Beaver (Castor fiber albicus) survived. Only a small population of 'indomitable Gauls' held out.

The indomitable Gauls in Germany

In Germany there was only one region where a few hundred animals survived the extensive hunting. It was thanks to the strict hunting laws enforced by the Princes of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, that along the rivers Elbe, Schwarzer Elster, Mulde and Saale the remaining populations held out for hundreds of years. When the protective hands of the Princes disappeared at the beginning of the last century, it was due to the great effort of conservationists in the GDR that the beaver continued to be protected. It was 25 years ago that the Hessian Society for Ornithology and Nature Conservation (HGON) eventually organised an official exit visa for 18 'Elbe-Beaver' to travel from the GDR to Hesse.

A Hessian success story

Since then their numbers have greatly increased and have spread from the Main-Kinzig-Kreis district to a wide range of streams and rivers in Hesse and Lower Franconia. Meanwhile, once again there are beavers in the rivers Kinsig, Fulda, the Gersprenz and the Wetterau. Conservationists expect that in the foreseeable future a greater portion of Hessian waters will be repopulated with Europe's largest rodent. Although this will only be made possible if the beavers in East Hesse, their main spread area, breed in sufficient numbers to force the offspring to move to different areas.

A present for the 25th birthday

This is why, after a quarter of a century, the beaver received a birthday present from Naturefund and the HGON. The conservationists purchased an area of land, (around 8000 square meters in size ), near Oberzell in Spessart that will be protected for them in the long term. It is here that the animals have created a true natural paradise over the last few years.  As a result of the beaver's natural building activity a mosaic of flowing and standing waters have appeared, along with a thick vegetation of herbs and softwood. It is an ideal habitat for a number of species. Also the beaver's offspring, after growing up here, should spread to different, as yet unpopulated areas in Hesse and Bavaria. Join us and help us to buy more land for nature! To our current project

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