Beavers will return to London for the first time in 400 years and could stop flooding at a local train station.
Widely hunted for their fur and meat, beavers became extinct in England during the 16th century.
But after a decade of successful breeding programs, the semi-aquatic mammal is back. Now they are being reintroduced to London.
At least one male and one female Eurasian beaver will be released into Ealing’s Paradise Fields, an eight-hectare site of woodland and wetland.
Why are beavers being reintroduced to London?
Beavers can be “ecosystem engineers” by generating habitat for dozens of others species. The wood they carry to the water provides food and shelter for insects, which in turn attract fish and birds. Their dams slow down the water, creating swampy wetlands and meadows.
The reintroduction will greatly benefit the club environmentsaid Dr. Sean McCormack, chairman and founder of Ealing Wildlife Group.
“Many people assume that beavers are a wild species. In fact, we just forgot how close we were to living alongside them.
“And we’ve forgotten the rich tapestry of life they can bring as engineers of healthy ecosystems.”
How can beavers help prevent floods?
The hardworking rodents could also help protect local infrastructure.
Paradise Fields often floods, causing damage to the local Greenford tube station. But beavers might be preventing that: They not only build dams, they dig new channels as they explore. This network of ponds it can hold water, preventing it from escaping park areas.
Results from the River Otter Beaver Trial in Devon show beavers have reduced flood flows by up to 60%.
‘Rewilding is a crucial tool in the toolbox for tackling natural and climate emergencies,’ says Professor Alastair Driver, director of conservation charity Rewilding Britain
“Beavers can do much of that rewilding for completely free river and wetland environments”.
Are beavers protected in England?
There are now hundreds of beavers in the UK. The government has passed legislation protecting them
As of October 2022, it is illegal to deliberately capture, injure, kill, or disturb the creatures.
Other European countries may provide a glimpse into the future of Britain’s beavers.
Just a century after Eurasian beavers were reintroduced to Sweden, they now number over 150,000. Both Norway and Germany reintroduced them in the 1960s and now have populations of around 80,000 and 40,000 respectively.