Critically endangered rodents have new home in Plymouth

A pair of Eurasian beavers have been released into a re-wilding enclosure at Poole Farm, Plymouth. The male and female are unrelated orphans from the Tay Catchment in Scotland and have spent the last few months at the Cornwall Seal Sanctuary.

The pair have now been in their new home in Plymouth for four weeks and have already started to make changes to the landscape. The beaver introduction is part of the Green Minds project, a Plymouth City Council initiative which has overseen a number of urban wilding project across the city and has engaged with communities to help people explore and enjoy the health benefits that nature and our green spaces provide.

Beavers disappeared from England about a thousand years ago, having been hunted to extinction. All the more extraordinary, then, that in 2008 a beaver was spotted in East Devon. Four years later, a beaver was rescued from a slurry pit in Roborough. Somehow, after centuries of absence, England once again had populations of free-living beavers.

The beavers’ behaviour and changes they make to the landscape will be monitored to show how their actions can reduce flooding further downstream and create habitats for wildlife in the Bircham Valley. It is not the first time beavers were introduced to the re-wilding enclosure at Poole Farm.

The farm previously had a pair but after storm damage to the enclosure, one escaped and was sadly hit by a car. The other was then re-homed. Since then, the council has strengthened the enclosure and invested in more robust storm gates on the watercourse entrance and exits.

A spokesperson for Plymouth City Council said: "It’s important to emphasise that this is not solely a council-run project. With any reintroduction, the welfare of the animals is paramount and we have made sure that we have the backing of experts. Leading beaver experts at Devon Wildlife Trust, re-wilding specialist Dereck Gow and Roisin Campbell–Palmer, the UK’s top beaver ecologist with the Beaver Trust, have all been involved in the project."

Roisin Campbell-Palmer, Head of Restoration at Beaver Trust, said: “We are excited to support this urban beaver project which offers an important facility for community engagement through nature connection on site. We need as many spaces as we can find to help tackle increasing levels of eco-anxiety, and beaver wetlands have been shown to benefit in this regard. We look forward to supporting the site as they monitor whether the beavers have reduced flash flooding impacts and roll out education initiatives for the city and surrounding area.”