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Wild beavers are back in England after 400 years, and they’re already bringing entire ecosystems back to life.
Return of the beaver: back from extinction after 400 years
Beavers are native to the UK and we’re once widespread in England, Wales and Scotland. They became extinct in the 16th century, mainly due to hunting for their fur, meat and ‘castoreum’, a secretion used in perfumes, food and medicine. However, the beaver is known as a ‘keystone species’ because of its significant positive influence on its environment, and their reappearance in the Devonshire countryside is having an amazing impact on the entire local ecosystem.
Not everybody is convinced the beavers are good business
Some local farmers are less convinced, according to a January article by World Economic Forum. Britain’s National Farmers’ Union opposed the reintroduction of beavers to the River Otter over concerns about damage to farmland and the spread of disease. It suggested that the beavers’ legal status of “not ordinarily resident in Britain” be retained even after the trial.
Devon Wildlife Trust has established a “beaver hotline” to respond to any landowner concerns, and says preliminary findings from the trial have demonstrated the value of the beavers to wetland ecosystems and water management.
Since 2011, the trust has also been studying beavers in an enclosed project on private land. Since their introduction to the site, it says, the beavers have constructed 13 dams, holding up to 1 million litres of additional water within ponds on the site. During storm events, on average, peak flows were 30% lower leaving the site than entering.
The River Otter trial was due to end in March 2020, when the government will determine if a wider reintroduction of wild beavers to UK rivers is viable. No decision has announced at the time of writing.
Back from extinction: wild beavers return to the English countryside after 400 years Researchers involved say the beavers’ activities over the past five years have helped manage water flow, raising the possibility that their dams could help reduce the risk of flooding further along river systems. The River Otter Beaver Trial (ROBT) five-year term concluded in March 2020. Natural England/Defra are responsible for deciding the future of the beavers currently living wild on the river. Source: Facebook/WorldEconomicForum
Beavers born in Essex for the first time since the Middle Ages A pair of eurasian beavers were brought to the Spains Hall Estate in Finchingfield last year as part of a project to reduce flood risk. Source: YouTube/EveningStandard
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