Beavers have not been seen in Britain’s capital for more than 400 years.
But two of the wood-munching rodents will be returning today to help rewild London – and it is hoped they will have kits within a year.
The animals will be building dams and felling trees in a specially designed enclosure in the grounds of Forty Hall Farm in Enfield, north London.
The animals will be building dams and felling trees in a specially designed enclosure in the grounds of Forty Hall Farm in Enfield, north London
It is hoped they will help restore nature and river habitat and reduce the risk of flooding.
The male and female beavers – both two years old – have not previously met, so their introduction is something of an arranged marriage. One is from Yorkshire, and the other from Scotland.
They do not yet have names, but Enfield Council, which is behind the project together with Capel Manor College, said they will run a competition online.
‘We’ve had suggestions of Justin Beaver for the male and Sigourney Beaver for the female. But we’ll see what the public come up with,’ spokesman Andrea DeLuce said.
‘They had better like each other. I’m hoping it will be love at first sight.’
She added that the council had made a ‘lovely lodge’ for the pair. Once settled, the council will put in a ‘beaver cam’ for the public to monitor their progress.
The public will not be allowed in the beavers enclosure, however.
It is hoped they will help restore nature and river habitat and reduce the risk of flooding
Beaver numbers are slowly beginning to make a comeback after they were hunted to extinction across England in the 16th century for their fur, glands and meat.
They are now found living in the wild on a number of rivers in Scotland and England through official trials and illegal releases or escapes, and have also been introduced into enclosures in a number of English counties.
Beavers are seen as natural engineers who restore wetland habitats through dam-building and felling trees, slowing, storing and filtering water in the landscape, which attracts other wildlife and reduces flooding downstream.
Beavers can be found in only two other urban areas in the UK – Plymouth and Perth in Scotland. But around the world they can be seen in cities including Munich and Vancouver.
Conservationists are waiting on a Government decision on allowing applications to release the animals into the wild.
Enfield Council’s deputy leader Ian Barnes said bringing beavers back is part of the council’s drive to tackle climate change and improve ecosystems.
He said: ‘Enfield Council is creating wilder, more natural spaces to enable biodiversity to thrive as part of our ongoing climate action strategy.
‘Also, by exploring natural flood management techniques, such as this beaver project, we can reduce the risk of harm from flooding following extreme rainfall, protecting hundreds if not thousands of local homes.’
The project, which will see the beavers introduced into a six-hectare (15 acres) enclosure at Forty Hall Farm, is part of a wider natural flood management initiative which will help restore local wildlife and river habitats, the council said.
The site is considered one of the few in the capital suitable for the animals.
The council said it is also looking at reintroducing other species such as goshawks and would like to support kingfisher nesting and barbel fish breeding.
Malcolm Goodwin, principal of Capel Manor College, London’s environmental college, said: ‘We know how vital nature and biodiversity is for the health of the countryside and the wellbeing of the good people of Enfield.
‘Our students know this too and they will have the opportunity to protect, monitor and understand the beavers and how they interact with their habitat and the local ecosystems.
‘This is especially important as they will graduate to become custodians of the natural environment we all share.’
Dr Roisin Campbell-Palmer, beaver restoration lead at the Beaver Trust, said: ‘We’re delighted to be returning beavers to live in such close proximity to this urban area, working with an extended veterinary team to ensure highest welfare for the animals.
‘We’ve seen from Europe and parts of Scotland how adaptive a species beavers are given some water and enough forage.’