A reintegration program seeks its return four centuries later to the marshy areas of the north of the city, specifically in Tottenham.

An American beaver works on his dam in Grand Teton National Park, WyomingShutterstock

The beavers will return after four centuries to the marshy areas of north London, specifically in Tottenham, not far from the stadium where the Spurs play. The association Citizen Zoo, devoted to the “renaturation” of the British capital, has launched the so-called London Beaver Working Group and hopes to secure Natural England permits to reintroduce underwater rodents this year.

The recent experience of Plymouth, the first urban setting in the UK where beavers have been reintroduced (thanks to the pioneering work of the Beaver Trust, has been instrumental in paving the way for the ambitious plans of Citizen Zoo, which has already located various points in the vast network of rivers, swamps and wetlands that cross London.

The reintroduction of the European beaver (castor fiber) – extinct in the 16th century in the British Isles for hunting for its coveted furs and precious oil, started “legally” more than a decade ago in Scotland – with the creation of the Scottish Beaver Trial. In the last three years beaver releases have spread to Cornwall, Dorset, Derbyshire or Nottinghamshire. In March of this year, the beavers returned to Wales, to the Cors Dyfi nature reserve in Powys.

The British Government is currently preparing a “national beaver strategy”, considered a “key species” for its ecological role, both in preventing floods and droughts with the construction of its dams, and in the purification of waters or in the creation of habitats that benefit multiple species.

“With the exception of the human being, no animal modifies its environment so laboriously and skillfully to adapt it to its needs, to such an extent that it is difficult for us to conceive the enormous influence that the beaver once had on our landscapes,” he recalls Ben Goldsmith , environmental philanthropist, advisor to the Department of the Environment and one of the main promoters of the “renaturalization “ in the British Isles.

“Beavers play a vital role in bringing to life areas devoid of the natural fabric in our landscapes, or even in our capital,” emphasizes Goldsmith, supporter of their reintroduction even in urban and peri-urban areas, although he admits that can create problems in the vicinity of fish farms, treatment plants or agricultural areas (where it will be necessary to “manage” their activity).

Goldsmith however remembers how the beaver was revered by the indigenous peoples in North America,who renamed it “little people” and learned to live in symbiosis, before the arrival of the trappers. The British philanthropist highlights its ecological function and defends its reintroduction in arid countries such as Spain, “where beavers would contribute to improving the state of rivers and preventing both floods and droughts.” France, with a population of over 14,000 beavers, is marking in his opinion the path of recovery, which also reaches Sweden and the Netherlands.

The state of Bavaria, in Germany, pioneered the reintroduction of “castor fiber” in the sixties, and its population has since spread to Munich itself. The Canadian city of Vancouver marked in 2008 another urban landmark with the symbolic return of beavers to the popular “Beaver Lake”, living up to its name.

With the experience of other cities, the Citizen Zoo organization shuffles two scenarios in London. The first is the “recolonization of the waterways” from the outskirts of the city, and more specifically from Kent, where they are already present. Beavers are capable of traveling eight to twelve kilometers to find “new territory,” so hopefully sooner or later they will descend on the capital from the periphery.

The second option of the “proactive reintroduction”, as Citizen Zoo has just done with the 200 water voles that have been released Richmond, south of the city. The organization has identified several “potential venues” in London, and according to The Guardian the finally chosen venue will be Tottenham.

Citizen Zoo has taken a further step towards the renaturation of the city with the project Tolwroth Court Farm, an urban farm in Kingston upon Thames that aspires to become a sanctuary for threatened species and a living laboratory of regenerative agriculture, in greater harmony with natural surroundings.

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