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Bringing Beavers Back to London
Rewilding Ealing with Beavers!
Beavers shaped Britain’s waterways by creating thriving wetlands and complex river systems brimming with invertebrates, amphibians, birds and fish before they were hunted to extinction 400 years ago.
Eurasian Beavers have been reintroduced in enclosed and open-release sites across the country in England, Wales and Scotland. Also, either through their own efforts or with a bit of “help”, Beavers can now be found in Kent and Oxfordshire.
Now with the Ealing Beaver Project, they will be reintroduced to the capital.
Beavers are a keystone species, referred to as “ecosystems engineers” and the perfect architects of healthy and biodiverse ecosystems. With their dam and canal creation, they create wetlands and deadwood which create the ideal habitats for insects, amphibians, and even water voles. They also slow the flow of waterways, preventing flooding and filtering water, improving water quality!
A licence has been granted by Natural England to reintroduce Eurasian beavers to Ealing in a controlled enclosure trial at Paradise Fields in North Greenford. This is a joint project between Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG), Ealing Council, Citizen Zoo and Friends of Horsenden Hill and supported by experts at the Beaver Trust.
Ealing Council has agreed to provide ranger support and partial financial backing from Section 106 developer funding to improve the local environment and provide community benefit. We will be seeking further funding for the project to make it happen should our application be successful.
Following a series of visits, Paradise Fields has been identified as a highly suitable habitat for beaver reintroduction and a flagship London rewilding project. The intention is to enclose most of the 10-hectare site and uniquely allow visitors to enter an immersive experience in a rewilding beaver landscape. It is important to study the impacts of beavers in the urban landscape in an enclosed trial before wider free-living beaver reintroduction is considered or before natural recolonisation occurs over the coming years.
Since then, the project has received funding from the Mayor of London as part of his Rewild London 2 Fund. This support will drive the project forward through physical preparation of the site, baseline ecological surveys and establishing monitoring activity and community engagement.
Site scoping visit at Paradise Fields, January 2022. Left to right: Jon Staples (Ealing park ranger), Martin Smith (Friends of Horsenden Hill), Sean McCormack (Ealing Wildlife Group & London Beaver Working Group), Róisín Campbell-Palmer (Beaver Trust), Elliot Newton (Citizen Zoo & London Beaver Working Group), Ben Stockwell (Citizen Zoo & London Beaver Working Group).
Free-living wild beavers are already as close to London as Medway, Kent and Oxfordshire. Natural recolonisation is almost an inevitability. Learning to live alongside beavers is something that landowners, local councils, residents, conservation organisations and other stakeholders are going to have to do in future. And excitingly today, the 17th of March 2022, Forty Hall Farm in Enfield released a pair of beavers into a woodland enclosure under license in a joint project by Capel Manor College and Enfield Council, the first beavers to live in London in 400 years.
The key objectives of our proposed project are:
1) Learn to manage beavers in the urban context including monitoring flood mitigation effects in an urban catchment
2) Habitat and biodiversity improvements on site, with a view to later reintroduce water voles, now considered locally extinct
3) Public engagement of local urban communities with nature, biodiversity and nature-based solutions/ecosystem services
Watch these two videos to find out more about the site at Paradise Fields and how Beavers will transform London.
For more information on why beaver reintroduction is being considered in London, and the associated benefits of projects such as this, here’s a talk by our friend and colleague Elliot Newton from Citizen Zoo:
For further information on beavers and the ecosystem services they can provide, please take a look at the Beaver Trust website and the short film ‘Beavers without Borders’:
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