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A 2023 Conservation Success Story: Bringing Back the Beaver

Cerys reports on the past extinction of Beavers and explores how recent reintroductions could be changing the future for Beavers in the UK.


Image Credit: Cszmurlo on Wikimedia Commons.


2023 marked 50 years since 1973, where there was the implementation of the endangered species act. This act was put in place to create a vital framework for the conservation and protection of endangered species and their habitats. This act protects animals of all taxa including species such as the Howler Monkey, Loggerhead Sea Turtles and Dwarf Crocodiles. Under this act there are also various species of Beaver protected.


Picture evidence that beaver hunting has been present throughout history. Image Credit: Harry Bullock-Webster on Wikimedia Commons.


The Beaver has been a key focus of conservation in the UK in recent years with great developments and progression being made in their species restoration. Beavers were once an abundant species across the UK, offering various ecosystem and human services. However, beaver hunting became popular when there was a value set on their fur and their scent glands. As a consequence of this popularity, it is recorded that by the beginning of the 16th century, Beavers across the UK had been hunted to extinction.


This image pictures one of the main river systems that is part of the Forest of Dean. Image Credit: Lemoncurd on Wikimedia Commons.


In 2018, there were a pair of Eurasian Beavers introduced to a 6 hectare woodland in Greathough Brook, in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. The experts monitored the pair using camera traps, allowing access to behavioral data that shows the beavers maintaining the ecosystem that they had become integrated in. This project is just one of many other similar projects that have begun, aiming to reintroduce what was once a thriving species.


Beaver Swimming. Image Credit: Ryzhkov Sergey on Wikimedia Commons


These projects have been a great success in raising awareness for the species and encouraging the growth and revival of their communities. In June 2023, at the Forest of Dean site, it was reported that two baby beavers had been born earlier in the year, and were now being seen to explore outside of the lodge they had spent 2 months in.


However, beaver reintroduction is not an easy task. Implementing reintroduction strategies often face a lot of backlash, particularly from the farming and agriculture communities, who worry about the loss of valuable land. Despite this, there is one farmer in Cornwall who embraced the reintroduction efforts and became founder of The Cornwall Beaver Project. Woodland Valley Farm is the home to Cornwall Beaver Project. This is where a pair of Beavers were released into a fenced enclosure. This project was initiated with the hope that their method of ecosystem engineering would result in reduced flood threats through dam construction and canal building. 2 days after initial introduction, the beavers were already busy building their first dam!


Eurasian Beaver. Image Credit: Dion Art on Wikimedia Commons.


Thanks to programmes like these introductions, it is estimated that beaver numbers in the UK are now close to 2,000! The Eurasian Beaver is now a protected species in the UK. This protection means that it is against the law to deliberately harm and/or kill beavers and their habitats. There have also been noticeable improvements to ecological landscapes where beavers have been reintroduced. These improvements include greater visitation from other wildlife, rising water levels in ponds and introduction of new species into areas where they haven’t been recorded before.


If you want to find out more about how to protect beavers and support pre-existing programmes check out these websites:




About the Author: Cerys Deakin is a third year Zoologist at the University of Exeter, with a passion for conservation. Cerys has hopes to have a career in conservation and animal welfare, and has particular interests in mammals, much like the Eurasian Beaver in the UK. She also has a huge interest in animal and wildlife photography that fits in well with her studies. You can find more about her studies and skills on her LinkedIn page or check out her Instagram at @cerys.hermione.photography.

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