They have become emblematic of the UK's rewilding movement. Now beavers are roaming riverbanks in London again after an absence of more than four centuries.
Hunted for their meat, pelts, and scent glands, beavers became extinct in the UK in the 16th century, but have been successfully reintroduced to a few rural sites in Britain in the past two decades. But this is the first time they have been re-introduced into a metropolis.
Two of the animals – a male and a female – were released into a six hectare (15 acre) enclosure in Enfield, north London last week. The pair are currently nameless, but Justin Beaver and Sigourney Beaver have been mooted. The public can vote for their preference via Twitter.
Beavers are great at restoring ecosystems: their dams slow waterways and provide habitats for other aquatic species. Their return to Enfield is part of efforts to tackle flooding and boost biodiversity. Goshawks could be the next species to be reintroduced to area.
“This is a truly humbling event to see these wonderful creatures back in the borough,” said Enfield council’s deputy leader, Ian Barnes. “By exploring natural flood management techniques, such as this beaver project, we can reduce the risk of harm from flooding following extreme rainfall, protecting hundreds if not thousands of homes.”
The reintroduction comes as beavers advance on London from the county of Kent, to the south.