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Beavers to return to London as part of urban rewilding

Beavers will return to west London for the first time in 400 years after receiving funding from the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan.

A breeding pair of Eurasian beavers could arrive at their new home in Paradise Fields, Ealing, as soon as this autumn.

Conservation groups received £40,000 from the mayor of London to create the publicly accessible reintroduction site, the first of its kind in an urban setting in the UK.

It is viewed as an important step in the rewilding project as wild beaver populations in Kent and Oxfordshire move closer to London.

Dr Sean McCormack, vet and chair of the Ealing Wildlife Group, said: “Many people assume beavers are a wilderness species, when in fact we’ve just forgotten how closely we used to live alongside them.

“We’re so excited to study how beavers interact with an urban river catchment and, crucially, with urban communities.”

The group hopes the planned wetland will show how beavers can be managed in an urban setting, including monitoring flood mitigation effects.

Related: Birds, beavers and microparks: experts plan to rewild London

“We are hoping to challenge perceptions, 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,” added Elliot Newton, co-founder of the rewilding organisation Citizen Zoo.

The project is one of 22 across the capital to receive mayoral support as part of the Rewild London Fund.

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.

“Rewilding allows nature to take the lead and is an exciting way to create healthier ecosystems and allow humans and wildlife to live together more harmoniously.”

Beavers were hunted to extinction in Britain 400 years ago for their fur, glands and meat. They have begun to reappear after the government-licensed beaver releases within enclosures, as well as illegal releases taking place around the country.

Some experts suggests there are hundreds of beavers living wild along England’s waterways.

In 2022, beavers were given legal protection in England, making it illegal to kill or harm them as they are formally recognised as native wildlife.

Environmentalists hope the upcoming beaver strategy will pave the way for this beloved rodent to be released to roam wild.