A family of native beavers is seen on restored habitat in London, England after being hunted to local extinction over 400 years ago

As a direct result, of Britain‘s efforts to restore the health of the River Thames, Londoners have enjoyed seeing wildlife in its waters that haven’t been present in centuries.

Now, restoration of wetlands and wildlife habitat has allowed the reintroduction of a keystone species, beavers, which were last seen in London over 400 years ago after being hunted to extinction locally.

On October 11, 2023, a family of Eurasian beavers was released at Paradise Fields, a restored area of woodland and wetlands in urban Greenford, in the London Borough of Ealing.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said, “I am delighted to welcome back beavers to West London for the first time in 400 years, with the support of my Rewild London Fund. We are facing climate and ecological emergencies worldwide, but we have the power to make a difference, and I am committed to ensuring that London is at the forefront of reversing the trends of declining biodiversity and the destruction of nature.

I’m proud that we are turning London into a wildlife haven, as well as making the city more resilient to the effects of climate change, as we work to clean up our city, re-establish lost species and reconnect people and nature, building a greener, fairer city for all Londoners. I encourage groups to apply to the fund now,” he added.

The return of this native species is part of a collaborative project plan to boost wildlife, increase the urban landscape’s climate resilience and engage thousands of people in nature.

The Ealing Beaver Project will offer a blueprint for other community restoration projects driven by passionate people looking to build local landscape resilience. Beaver Trust is looking forward to working with the team here to facilitate education on beavers and the importance of giving nature more space, and to help build a better understanding of this dynamic ecosystem engineer,” she continued.

Beavers are a native species and were once commonplace along British rivers and streams, but they were hunted to extinction here around the 16th century, prized for their thick fur, meat and scent glands. Over the last 20 years they have been reintroduced to a handful of sites around Britain, largely in enclosures such as the one at Ealing,” Campbell-Palmer concluded.

Crucially, the project aims to reduce flood risk in urban Greenford.

Dr. Sean McCormack, vet and Chair of Ealing Wildlife Group said, “It’s unbelievably exciting that after a lot of hard work and volunteer effort to make this happen, we’re welcoming beavers back to Ealing. We’re excited to show they can have benefits in the urban landscape, not only for wildlife but for people too. Their activities here over the coming years should provide effective nature-based solutions to urban problems such as flood mitigation and improved water quality. We’re also excited to see the wildlife that shows up on site and the effects that having nature on your doorstep can have for urban communities.

Following public consultation and a special licence being granted by Natural England, the beavers have been relocated from wild populations in Scotland by experts at the Beaver Trust and Five Sisters Zoo.

Elliot Newton, cofounder of Citizen Zoo said, “We are incredibly proud to be part of this pioneering project, which will help to challenge perceptions about what is possible in urban settings. Beavers can be found in urban environments across Europe and North America, and here we will help to demonstrate how we can embrace nature-rich and functional landscapes even in built-up landscapes such as Ealing.”

They will be monitored by Ealing Beaver Project staff and volunteers as they establish their new home in the 8-hectare (20 acres) fenced enclosure.

Councillor Deirdre Costigan, Ealing Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for climate action said, “The whole borough is excited about bringing beavers back to Ealing as part of this genuine community partnership. Ealing Council is delighted to have provided funding and dedicated land at Paradise Fields to help make history in Ealing as we provide a home for urban beavers once again.”

As part of our Biodiversity Action Plan we want to work with local communities to create new habitats, as well as create 10 new parks, planting 50,000 trees and rewilding 800,000sqm of the borough. From flooding to drought, beavers offer nature-based solutions that will help in our fight against the climate crisis. I hope our newest beaver residents settle in nicely to their new home in Ealing,” he explained.

A phenomenal volunteer effort has helped prepare the site for the arrival of these ecosystem engineers, with community members fully trained to monitor beaver welfare.

The project is a collaboration among Ealing Wildlife Group, Citizen Zoo, Friends of Horsenden Hill and Ealing Council, with support from Beaver Trust, and funding from the Mayor of London and Amazon’s Right Now Climate Fund in partnership with the London Wildlife Trust and Groundwork London, under the Rewild London Fund.

Martin Smith of Friends of Horsenden Hill said, “The Friends of Horsenden Hill are delighted and excited to be involved in this first release of beavers into a fully accessible urban site. Our volunteers have been involved in the site preparation and will continue to be involved with ongoing site monitoring and maintenance. We look forward to seeing how the beavers change and improve this site over the months and years.

The site will be temporarily closed for a period of one month, to allow the beavers time to settle in. For the following month, members of the public will be able to visit the site under the supervision of staff and volunteers for another month.

After this, full public access will resume, offering a groundbreaking opportunity to experience the emergence of an urban beaver wetland first-hand.

Head of Restoration at Beaver Trust, Dr. Roisin Campbell-Palmer said, “It’s an important move in the species’ restoration; “Projects like these offer an ideal opportunity to promote engagement with this species while we await a national policy framework for wild releases. It’s incredibly rewarding to see community-driven action to reconnect more people with nature and welcome beavers back into this urban landscape.

Zak Watts, Director of European Sustainability at Amazon said, “Bringing nature back to the communities where we live and work is a core purpose of our Right Now Climate Fund. Reintroducing a family of beavers to the capital will not only help Londoners discover and reconnect with nature but also help improve our city’s biodiversity challenge.

Photo via Pixabay.

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