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Norfolk experts drafted in to help South Korea deal with its coypus

Auction at Sutton Windmill. A stuffed Coypu.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY
Auction at Sutton Windmill. A stuffed Coypu. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
5:55 PM

For years, they were the enemy - foreign invaders that caused havoc on the Broads and weakened Norfolk’s flood defences.

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Animals and Birds  Police kill a coypu in the City Churchyard.  Dated 21 December 1959  Photograph C10471Animals and Birds Police kill a coypu in the City Churchyard. Dated 21 December 1959 Photograph C10471

But the last coypu was seen in the county in 1989 - thanks to a long and expensive campaign that included financial rewards for anyone handing over a carcass.

Now, 25 years on, the successful war against the rampant rodents has caught the eye of some unlikely admirers - the South Koreans.

Today and tomorrow, experts from the Asian nation will join their Norfolk counterparts on the Broads to pick up tips about how to deal with the beaver-like creatures, which are causing similar problems on the other side of the globe.

The eradication programme co-ordinated by Norfolk County Council and Reducing the Impacts of Non-native Species in Europe (Rinse) is seen as an exemplar - and the South Koreans are keen to learn more.

They will be taken to the Broads to meet the experts - and some of the trappers who caught the coypus during the campaign.

Mike Sutton-Croft, Norfolk non-native species co-ordinator, said: “The UK coypu eradication project shows just how important timely intervention is. It was expensive to eradicate the species, but it was possible, with a systematic, concerted effort.

“Had numbers been greater and had we not been successful, our Broads ecosystems would have been in jeopardy. We are truly delighted to host the Korean party and hope that they will take away some useful knowledge which will help them control coypu in their own country.”

The creature became a threat across the south of England in 1945, with hundreds making themselves at home along 65km of Norfolk’s rivers. Their prolific breeding and the lack of natural predators ensured that their numbers grew quickly.

By 1948 the Great Ouse River Board offered a £5 bounty for each carcass. In 1962, the then Ministry of Agriculture launched a campaign with a £60,000 grant over three years to sweep the pests from 2,500 square miles of Norfolk.

Although around 22,000 were killed, numbers recovered rapidly.

The ministry was given a further £2.5m in 1981 for the programme to be completed in 10 years, a goal it achieved by 1989.

Rinse concentrates its efforts on managing the impacts of invasive non-native species across southern England, northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

It eradicated the floating pennywort on the River Waveney, an aquatic plant which had threatened to choke the waterway. Grey squirrels, which are native to North America, are another species that has become endemic to the UK. They have displaced native red squirrels and caused damage to commercial forestry.

Do you remember the coypus? Tweet @EDP24.

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