Beavers will be given legal protection in England, which will make it illegal to kill or harm them. The lovable rodents will be recognised as a native animal, which they were not previously, as they have officially been extinct from the UK for over 400 years. However, due to illegal releases beavers have begun to repopulate, with an estimated 800 living in the wild.
The new law will come into effect after 1st October 2022, and will make it illegal to capture, kill, disturb, or injure beavers. It will also be against the law to destroy a beaver’s resting place or breeding site.
Beavers have been reintroduced to the UK as part of a rewilding project. Rewilding is conservation in its most natural form; where humans take a backseat and leave things up to… well, nature.
According to non-profit True Nature Foundation, ‘rewilding is the most exciting and promising conservation strategy to slow down or halt the 6th mass extinction of species.’
So, could beavers be the climate heroes we’ve all been waiting for?
Beaves are invaluable to the environment. They are a keystone species, which means they are important to maintaining the ecosystem. In wet areas, beaver dams can slow down floodwaters, and in dry areas the ponds they create can restore moisture. They can even help areas that have been affected by wildfires recover.
When beavers dam streams and rivers they create ponds, which are habitats where other wildlife and plant life thrive. In fact, in areas of beaver-made wetlands there are 33 per cent more plant species and 26 per cent more beetles, according to The University of Stirling.
Beavers create their dams by using their teeth to gnaw trees and branches until they collapse. They use a combination of trees, bark, mud and stones to create their dams. Contrary to belief, the dam is not where the beaver lives, the dam is merely a wall protecting against predators. The wetland they have created inside the pond is where the beaver will actually reside.
In the UK wetlands have decreased by 90% since the Roman times. By reintroducing beavers to the environment, species such as otters, water vole, waterfowl, fish, plants and insects will flourish.
Derek Gow is a farmer turned rewilder. He welcomed the news that beavers will be provided protection under British law.
“We have been very slow to recognise the critical role that this species delivers in the creation of complex wetland landscapes, which can afford resilience against the twin extremes of flood and drought. All they need from us to guarantee this goal is understanding, tolerance and space.”