Beavers could be considered for Cairngorms National Park

image captionAn idea to reintroduce beavers to the Cairngorms has been on the cards for a number of years

The potential for returning beavers to the Cairngorms could be explored next year depending on the results of a trial reintroduction in Argyll.

The project at Knapdale is due to end in 2014.

Efforts could also be made to encourage or reintroduce Eurasian crane to the Cairngorms National Park.

The ambitions form part of two new initiatives launched by the park authority (CNPA) to protect wildlife and habitats.

Cairngorms Nature aims to implement a range of measures to ensure the area continues to be home to creatures such as red squirrels, Scottish wildcats, capercaillie, freshwater pearl mussels.

The Cairngorms Nature Action Plan looks at the possibility of the reintroduction of beavers and cranes, which were once native to the Cairngorms.

image captionCommon cranes are rare visitors to the Cairngorms

CNPA has faced criticism from environmental and conservation groups.

Earlier this month, the Cairngorms Group failed in a legal challenge to four major housing developments proposed for the park.

The Cairngorms Campaign opposes plans for 1,500 homes at An Camas Mor, near Aviemore, and 117 at Carrbridge, 300 at Kingussie and 40 at Nethy Bridge.

It appealed to the Court of Session over the park authority's local plan, which includes the developments.

The campaign had appealed against a legal judgement that rejected a previous court challenge to the local plan.

It claimed the four developments were a threat to wildlife and a proper environmental and ecological assessment of the impact of the local plan had not been carried out.

Launching the two new initiatives, CNPA chief executive Grant Moir said the park had a rich landscape supporting rare plants, insects, birds and mammals.

He added: "Working with partners to enhance and create new habitats is one of the key actions to ensure that this happens.

"Woodland expansion, enhancing and improving wetlands, creating more montane and juniper scrub and supporting high nature value farming will help to ensure these habitats are in good condition."

CNPA said the potential for reintroducing beavers would be looked at next year.

image captionThe park is already home to animals such as red squirrels

The idea of bringing the animals back to the park was first floated a number of years ago.

They were also among 22 creatures, locally extinct or in severe decline in the Cairngorms, assessed for possible reintroduction by ecology advisor Dr David Hetherington.

In a report published in February, he said it was highly unlikely bears and wolves could return but did not rule out the potential for lynx.

Eurasian cranes, also known as common cranes, were also once native to the Cairngorms but were over-hunted for their meat.

Recently the birds have been making rare visits to the park.

Cairngorms Nature manager Andy Ford said: "Just last month a group of three cranes was observed flying around wetland sites in Strathspey, promoting hopes that the species may naturally return in future - so long as we can ensure the habitat is suitable and in good condition for them, which will of course benefit other species too.

"Having these big charismatic birds around with their spectacular courtship dance and loud bugling call could also be good for wildlife tourism."

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