Wildcats, golden eagles and beavers could be reintroduced in England

Once native animals and birds like wildcats, golden eagles and beavers could be reintroduced to England in a major wildlife boost under a government project.

A taskforce will be set up to look at bringing back long-lost species and introduce declining species into new areas, says Environment Secretary George Eustice.

In a speech from Delamere Forest, Cheshire, where beavers are being kept in a fenced enclosure to manage habitat, Mr Eustice also said the Government was 'looking positively' towards the reintroduction of the semi-aquatic mammals.

Beavers, hunted to extinction in Britain by the 16th century, have already returned to live free on the River Otter in Devon in England and a number of other waterways.

Conservationists back the return of the animals because they create and manage habitat for other wildlife, improve water quality and curb flooding downstream.

Mr Eustice also said the government would look at re-introducing other animals such as wildcats and golden eagles to areas where they are gone or declining. 

A new taskforce, made up of experts, landowners and charities, would consider reintroducing species such as wildcats lost from England, and the release of rare wildlife including curlew and pine martens into new areas.

The wide-ranging speech on tackling nature also set out plans to protect peatlands and increase woodland cover in England.