While reports that beavers will be released in London proved inaccurate this week, conservationists said it won’t be long before the rodents reach the capital.
The internet was turned upside down this week following news that beavers were to be introduced to London. Was reported that animals came, from all over, Tottenham, as part of an urban reconstruction project. It all sounded too good to be true, and it was.
“We have no active plans to release beavers in London,” said Elliot Newton, head of conservation at Citizen Zoo, the organization behind the alleged reintroduction program.
That’s the bad new. The good news is that the beaver, a mammal that was once locally extinct and reintroduced to the UK, is now recolonizing the country so successfully that Newton estimates the species will make it to London on its own within a decade. .
“The beaver population in Kent is expanding and I think they will probably arrive in London in five to ten years,” he told Positive News. “We have to be prepared for that.”
For a lesson on how to share a city with beavers, Newton points to Vancouver in Canada. Authorities there, he said, wrap the trees in mesh to prevent the creatures from cutting them down, wreaking havoc on the city.
Driven to extinction in the UK around 400 years ago, beavers have been the subject of various reintroduction programs across the UK. The return of the animal has not been without controversy; some farmers opposed the reintroductions, fearful that beavers would flood their land. However, ecologists argue that animals alleviate flooding and create habitats for other species by building dams.
The return of the water mouse
While Citizen Zoo has no plans to introduce beavers to London, it is bringing water mice back to the Hogsmill River in nearby Kingston. Next spring, the organization will release 150 of the animals along the waterway, which empties into the River Thames.
Citizen Zoo will bring the water vole back to London. Image: Peter Trimming / Creative Commons
“The water mouse is the UK’s fastest declining mammal,” Newton said, citing habitat degradation and predation by the invasive American mink as the main drivers of the population decline.
The Hogsmill River has been restored by local volunteers to be better suited to water voles, as part of a community-driven rebuilding project.
“Volunteers have planted and managed the habitat a lot, and we are confident that the river is now suitable for aquatic voles,” said Newton, who said the project is a first in the UK. “To my knowledge, this is the first time that a community has come together to reintroduce water voles into an urban area.”
Lead Image: Moritz Becker