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Wild beavers return to west London for the first time in 400 years

Wild beavers have returned to London’s Ealing district after an absence of 400 years.

A family of five Eurasian beavers – a breeding pair and their three offspring – were transported from Scotland and released Wednesday at the Paradise Fields wetlands area, in Ealing, west London.

The Ealing Beaver Project hopes the beavers can help reduce the risk of flooding, as well as engaging people in nature.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan was at the release. “[Beavers] are nature’s way of building dams … helping the wider ecosystem,” he said. “It’s good for humans, it’s good for nature, it’s good for our city.”

His Rewild London Fund provided almost £40,000 ($49,000) in funding for the project.

Sean McCormack, chair of Ealing Wildlife Group, one of many groups behind the beaver initiative, said: “Paradise Fields is a little oasis of nature adjoining a big retail park and adjoining urban Greenford.

“Greenford is a high flood risk zone, and that’s only going to be exacerbated by climate change. The beavers should build a series of dams through the site and create wetlands … this acts as a giant sponge.”

Wild beavers were hunted into extinction in the UK over 400 years ago for their meat and fur pelts. In recent years, they have been reintroduced to Devon, southwest England, and in 2022, they were legally defined as a protected species in England, paving the way for further conservation and rewilding.

In March 2022, beavers were released in Enfield, north London, and last month it was announced that a baby beaver had been born there, the first beaver birth in London for hundreds of years.

The Ealing site will be closed to the public for one month, to give the beavers time to settle, but by the end of the year the area will be fully open to visitors.

“We are part of nature, we need to live alongside nature,” said McCormack. “Beavers are a good example of the ecosystem services provided to us.”

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