Two male beavers have been released into a large enclosure in Norfolk to join females introduced there before lockdown as part of a “rewilding” scheme.
The Wild Ken Hill project on the Norfolk coast is turning around 1,000 acres of marginal farmland and woodland back over to nature, including introducing the beavers into an enclosure to help recreate wooded wetlands.
The team behind the scheme had hoped to introduce two pairs of beavers into the site in March, but the national lockdown meant they were only able to introduce two females in the spring.
Now two brothers have been taken from the wild in Scotland, and brought to the Norfolk project, where they have been put into the individual territories established by the females to help them pair up and breed.
The team said they were introducing the beavers at Wild Ken Hill because of the animals’ ability to create ecosystems, through felling trees and building dams, that other wildlife use.
The female beavers have already begun to transform the area into a wetter and more open habitat which will boost nature over time, they said.
In addition to letting 1,000 acres return to a wild state, the family farm is still growing crops such as wheat, barley and sugar beet on another 2,000 acres.
On the farmed land, they are using “regenerative” agricultural techniques that look after the soil, cut out insecticides and provide food and habitat for wildlife.
And they are actively managing a third area of grazed wetland next to the Wash to support wildlife, and have raised the water level by around a foot across 500 acres to help birds such as lapwings, curlews and spoonbills.
Nick Padwick, from the Wild Ken Hill project, said: “Beavers are ecosystem engineers – they create habitat used by other species, like fish, insects and plants by building leaky dams and felling trees.
“We’ve introduced two males to pair up with the females already here – we hope they breed and transform this landscape together.”
Project manager Dominic Buscall said: “We’re introducing beavers to rewet and open up an area of woodland to boost biodiversity, but also to demonstrate this animal has an important role and a future in the UK countryside, and should not be subject to government-sanctioned persecution in Scotland, where 20% of the wild population was shot in 2019.”
The Beaver Trust said beavers could help regenerate the land, tackle the growing extremes of drought and flooding that climate change is bringing and restore rivers.
“Beavers build series of dams that filter out pollutants, reduce flooding, store water in pools for times of drought, and attract a huge host of other wildlife,” a spokesperson said.
“They also bring challenges – they will change our rivers and landscapes and this can disrupt existing land use.
“Beavers are an ally providing ecosystem engineering and act as a totem for reconnecting people with the rest of nature, helping us create nature recovery networks along our rivers.”