Beavers return to London after 400 years

Beavers to return to urban London landscape in publicly accessible reintroduction project in Ealing

Beaver from the side - photo credit - Elliot McCandless

Eurasian beavers, a native British species and Europe’s largest rodent, have been licenced to return to Ealing for the first time in over 400 years in a project led by local community and conservation groups to demonstrate their benefits to people and nature.

Uniquely, this will be London’s first truly urban landscape seeing a beaver reintroduction. Paradise Fields, a ten hectare area of woodland and wetlands in urban Greenford in the north of the borough, has undergone feasibility studies and a licence application to Natural England supported by Beaver Trust.

The project is a collaboration between Ealing Wildlife Group, Citizen Zoo, Friends of Horsenden Hill and Ealing Council with support from Beaver Trust. As beavers are already living wild as close to London as Medway in Kent and Oxfordshire, it may only be a matter of time before they arrive of their own accord. The project will allow residents, landowners and other stakeholders to learn how to live alongside this dynamic species again in a controlled enclosed trial at first. The aims are to demonstrate:

1) How to manage Beavers in the urban context including monitoring flood mitigation effects in an urban river catchment

2) Habitat and biodiversity improvements on site, with a view to later reintroduce threatened Water Voles, now considered locally extinct

3) How local urban communities engage with urban rewilding, biodiversity and nature-based solutions or ecosystem services

Aerial shot of the location for the beavers in Ealing, London

The site will be open to the public to experience a beaver wetland as it progresses, after a short period of closure for the new arrivals to settle, anticipated to be some time this autumn. Dr Sean McCormack, vet and Chair of Ealing Wildlife Group says: “Many people assume beavers to be a wilderness species, 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.”

Beavers are a keystone species, manipulating habitat to create biodiverse wetlands where many other species can thrive. Their activities can help combat and adapt to impacts of climate change through carbon capture, reduce flood risk by slowing water flow in times of high rainfall and mitigate drought by holding more water on the land. Elliot Newton, co-founder of Citizen Zoo welcomed the beaver licence approval, commenting: “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. Which will greatly benefit not only wildlife populations but local communities too.”

Head of Restoration at Beaver Trust, Dr Roisín Campbell-Palmer was also pleased to hear of the licence approval, stating: “Now that beavers are back in Britain, learning to coexist with them is fundamental to the species' successful restoration. We look forward to continuing to support the team to make the most of this superbly located site."

The Ealing Beaver Project are offering a talk on the project with guest host and beaver ambassador Megan McCubbin on Wednesday 15th February (7:30pm). See here for details.

Beaver Entering Water - photo credit - Elliot McCandless