I have no idea what year it was, that I attended a Herts Bird Club "conference (?)" in Wheathampstead, where Roy Dennis was the guest speaker. His enthusiasm for reintroductions of our lost wild life was infectious and I remember driving back to Kent thinking that I'd been privileged to have been there. What I do recall is that it was on the back of breeding Eagle Owls at a remote location, controlled by the military, and the fantastic documentary tv program that had been a direct result of this situation. Roy's visionary stance was delivered with such aplomb to the audience present in the venue, the Rutland Osprey Project following the same spectacular route as the previous Chiltern Red Kite pilot scheme. The man had the greatest sales pitch I've ever heard - I'll have a bowl full of that, and some more, if you don't mind! So far, so good - I was full on birding at this time and cared little about other aspects of wildlife or ecological backlash.
Let's fast forward to 2018 and now I am not so sure that Roy had thought his ideas through quite as carefully as required. The ever growing population, of our already crowded isle, and the impact that mankind make upon natural resources means that turning back clocks is a very unrealistic aspiration. My birding is now very much a secondary pursuit, as are moths, butterflies and umpteen other aspects of natural history enjoyment. Today I'd like to be perceived as an angler who is able to see beyond the limitations, of a very myopic hobby, but a fisherman none the less. A countryman with experience of many aspects of enjoying what is awaiting discovery by anyone with the desire to push boundaries and take a look for themselves.
I can't align myself with angling's problem with Otters. They are 100% native creatures to our UK ecosystems and have enjoyed a resurgence of distribution based upon the ilegal spread of a species which had very limited distribution prior to covert introductions. Barbel are the key to modern Otter success, they belong in five, not eighty two, river systems. All the while our modern water suppliers are using, dilution to solve pollution, tactics which have resulted in a decimated eel population in all of our major river systems. Otters eat eels, end of! Only when there ain't any do they change their diet, barbel fit the bill perfectly, as do carp - both species capable of survival in semi-polluted waterways, whilst eels have long since succumbed. Can there be any surprise that Carp and Barbel are now the two most popular species with the UK's anglers? Water providers are under no pressure to return our waterways to their previous biodiversity, due to the dominance of the carp industry, within UK angling, and the rise of social media influence upon the the "ordinary guy" Big carp and barbel available to all, except Otters? If our waterways contained all the species that they did, whilst I was growing up, the Otters wouldn't be preying on these two species. Oh yeah, that would involve the water providers actually cleaning up their pitiful efforts at effluent treatment - not going to happen all the while these two species dominate anglers attention.
So I'm out in the wilds of East Kent chasing a species that was brought to our shores by the Romans. English as "fish & chips" but still an alien introduction by definition. Then a bloody Beaver wipes out one of my rods, swimming through the carefully prepared line set-up. F**king things! Roy Dennis (or his organisation) will have been involved in the reintroduction of these creatures. I say introduction, what has happened is the result of piss poor management by KWT, at Ham Fen, and the ease by which these large animals are able to escape the compounds in which this experiment was being conducted. When a Beaver passes, it isn't a Water Vole - you've just seen a Labrador go through your swim; they're bloody massive creatures. Beavers are now widespread across the whole of East Kent, despite the denial of various authorities, who have alternative agendas?
So what's next? Lynx, Wild Boar (we've already got them in King's Wood!), European Bison, Brown Bear or Wolf? Roy Dennis, as infectious as his enthusiasm was, has an awful lot to answer for - we're running out of space for humans; where are these creatures supposed to fit in?