The internet got in a tizzy following the news that beavers were to be introduced to London. It was reported that the damn building creatures were coming to, of all places, Tottenham, as part of an urban rewilding project. It sounded too good to be true, because it was. But...
“We have no active plans to release beavers in London,” said Elliot Newton, head of conservation at Citizen Zoo, the organisation behind the alleged reintroduction programme.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that the beaver - extinct in the UK for 400 years, but recently reintroduced at a number of sites - is now recolonising the country so successfully that Newton reckons the species will reach London under its own steam within a decade.
Driven to extinction in the UK four centuries ago, beavers have been the subject of various reintroduction programmes across the UK. The return of the animal hasn’t been without controversy; some farmers opposed reintroductions, fearful that beavers would flood their land. Ecologists, however, argue that the animals actually alleviate flooding, as well as creating habitats for other species by building dams.
The semi-aquatic creatures were released into the wild in Exmoor last year as part of an ecosystem restoration programme led by the National Trust, and monitored by Exeter University, which aims to restore streams in the area and reduce flooding.
Rangers described the beavers as “ecosystem engineers” for creating an “instant wetland” on the Somerset estate only nine months after they were introduced to slow the flow of water and improve river quality.
As a result, beavers being reintroduced to five more counties in England and Wales this year. The Wildlife Trusts will release 20 of the tree-gnawing, river-damming animals in Derbyshire, Hampshire, Nottinghamshire, Montgomeryshire and Dorset.