Should you ever wish to travel back to the times of the Tudors in London, you’ll probably notice significantly more folks on horseback and rows of half-timbered houses. It also will beam you to a time where beavers could be seen scuttling around riverbanks, doing their dam thing.
Sadly, the rodents were eventually hunted to extinction for their fur and meat, but after more than 400 years, it looks like the boys beavers are back in town.
Come this Autumn, London will have its first beaver habitat that’s accessible to the public, when Paradise Fields in Greenford welcomes a breeding pair, who will arrive alongside their kits (infants).
It comes—handily, on World Rewilding Day!—as part of major plans to rewild London, with conservation groups receiving nearly £40,000 in funding from City Hall to create this habitat for beavers.
Eventually, this area will become a ‘beaver safari’ for visitors to view the rodents, who are known for their vegetarian diet and their dam-building prowess. It is hoped that this skill will be useful to quell flooding in England made worse by climate change.
Beaver enthusiasts may recall some talk of beavers arriving in London last year as part of rewilding plans, and they were, in fact, introduced in Enfield. Sadly, the male beaver – who was named Justin Beaver (!) and arrived alongside his partner, Sigourney (!!) – passed away due to natural causes three months into the rewilding scheme.
A second beaver is said to have been welcomed at Forty Hall farm in north London, though Paradise Fields in Greenford will welcome more beavers as part of this first ‘beaver safari’ later this year. This safari is part of a new wetland planned in Ealing by Citizen Zoo, Ealing Wildlife Group, Ealing Council and Friends of Horsenden Hill.
In a press release, Nick Swallow, Citizen Zoo Fundraising Operations Officer, said: “Across Europe and North America, beavers are known to thrive alongside urban communities.
“…We hope to challenge the perceptions of Londoners and demonstrate how London too, can embrace these ecosystem engineers as we strive for a healthier, wilder future in which our Capital can become a leader in urban rewilding, which will greatly benefit not only wildlife populations but local communities too.”
It’s one of 11 new area earmarked by a group appointed by Mayor Sadiq Khan to find potential new “rewilding opportunity zones”.
Speaking about the new rewilding project, Sadiq Khan said: “Despite the harm inflicted on the natural world, we have the power to make amends, and I am committed to ensuring that London is at the vanguard of efforts to reverse the trends of declining biodiversity and the destruction of nature.
“We’re cleaning up our city, re-establishing lost species and reconnecting people and nature as we build a greener, fairer city for all Londoners.”
A trip to Greenford later this year could result in checking out the hard-work of some newly welcomed beavers. Given they’ve been gone from the city for more than 400 years, I’d say they’ve earned a tree-mendous welcome.