After a long 400 years of being beaver-less, London is once again home to wild beavers after a family of five beavers have been released in West London as part of a rewilding project. These semi-aquatic animals are the second largest living rodents, after capybaras, and were once abundant in England but were heavily hunted for their fur and meat making them extinct during the 16th century.
The five beavers were released at Paradise Fields in Ealing by members of Ealing Wildlife Group, Citizen Zoo, Ealing Council, Friends of Horsenden Hill and Groundwork London, as well as Mayor of London Sadiq Khan himself and were relocated from a wild beaver population in Scotland by a coalition of wildlife groups. The initiative is one of 22 projects that is part of Sadiq Khan’s Rewild London Fund which aims to recover nature and enhance London’s most valuable wildlife sites.
This beaver rewilding project sees the importance of the role of beavers in urban wildlife. Dams built by beavers help to hold and slow water during high rainfall events and help prevent urban floods, canals dug and dead wood created all contribute to maintaining a micro-ecosystem that helps other creatures flourish providing food and shelter for insects which then attracts birds and fish. They are keystone species, ecological engineers and act as rewilders themselves in their river and wetland environments.
Sadiq Khan: “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.”
“Many people assume beavers to be a wilderness species. In fact, we’ve just forgotten how closely we used to live alongside them, and we’ve forgotten the rich tapestry of life they can bring as engineers of healthy ecosystems,” said Dr Sean McCormack, chair and founder of Ealing Wildlife Group.
This is the second reintroduction attempt for beavers in London, after an initial attempt in 2021 where two beavers, named Justin and Sigourney Beaver, were introduced to a farm in north London, but sadly one of the pair died before they could breed.
To allow the beavers to settle into their new homes, the area the beavers have been released to will be closed to the public for a month. Once the beavers have settled, the public will be able to catch a glimpse of them and the project will aim to offer ‘beaver safaris’ once the family has settled in. For those of you keen to visit London’s newest friendly faces, beavers are most commonly spotted at dawn and dusk.