The UK is Releasing Beavers in London. Is it a Horrible Idea?

In a few years time, tourists might be visiting London not to see Big Ben but to see—beavers? Thanks to new rewilding projects intended to bring nature back to the Big Smoke, Greater London could soon be getting an influx of beaver families reacquainting themselves with ancestral grounds they haven’t roamed for 400 years.

Last week, on World Rewilding Day, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that the city would put £1 million (about $1.24 million) toward new projects to reintegrate nature into the city of nearly 9 million people. The 22 new projects Khan announced are expected to revitalize nearly 300 acres of total land area.

Beaver dams can cause major flooding. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty

To reintroduce beavers to West London, an area in the borough of Ealing “will be transformed into a flourishing and immersive wetland, combatting the climate crisis and creating a biodiverse ecosystem for plant and animal diversity,” according to a press release from the city. 

Some residents are celebrating the return. Beavers were common in the area before they were hunted to extinction, reports Reuters. Wildlife fans believe it’s only right to return them to their native range. Others worry about the destructive nature of beavers. If they decide to dam up canals or chew fence posts, the city could be in for a rude awakening. Beavers have also been known to create widespread flooding, an issue some UK residents are worried about.

So far, the rewilding plan seems to be moving forward, despite the concerns. Other related projects include creating a “pollinator corridor” to build a friendlier habitat for bees dancing around to pollinate the city and planting a wildflower meadow within walking distance of the London City Airport. Another project will restore a section of stream called Beverly Brook to create a better habitat for bats, fish, and birds.

Beavers have lived in Prague, Czech Republic, for years. Image by Anadolu Agency/Getty

London is already fairly unique as a world capital in that it has so many parks and green spaces. About 3,000 of them scattered around an area half the size of Rhode Island. With about 8 million trees, there are almost enough for every single person in the city to hug a tree at the same time. London is currently working toward a goal of making more than 50 percent of its land area either green (forests, parks, gardens, wetlands) or blue (rivers, canals, ponds). These new rewilding projects aim to get the city closer to that goal.

Planning a trip? Keep an eye out for a flash of red fur. Clever urban foxes abound throughout the city, especially near parks and canals, and can often be spotted doing ridiculous things, like trotting around with an ice cream cone, because why not?

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