In October, the UK introduced its first urban beavers into a west London nature reserve, aiming to enhance public engagement with nature, study biodiversity improvements, and monitor flood mitigation effects.

Seven months later, the project shows promising results.

The beavers, a family of five, were released into Paradise Fields in Greenford, Ealing, a nature reserve adjacent to a retail estate.

Despite the urban setting, this area has become their thriving habitat. The beavers have adapted well and are transforming the environment, with volunteers suspecting that the beavers might be breeding and expecting kits soon.

Dr. Sean McCormack, a key proponent of the initiative, frequently visits the site to observe the beavers’ activities. They have constructed five dams by cutting back trees and dredging mud, creating large pools that serve multiple purposes.

“This is the first dam they created in the system, the first one of five,” Dr McCormack says. “The reason they have created it here is to create some deep water before they have to cross the Capital Ring footpath which runs through the site.

“To a beaver they don’t know if there’s a bear, a wolf, a lynx around every corner. It’s their instinct to create deep water so they feel safe. They’re basically checking that the coast is clear upstream here.”

These dams filter water and provide deep pools, allowing beavers to dive and evade predators, remaining underwater for up to 15 minutes.

Since their introduction, the beavers have been industriously modifying their environment. Despite the proximity of roads and high-rise buildings, they have remained unperturbed. The beavers have created canals to transport logs efficiently, showcasing their reputation as nature’s engineers. Their efforts are visibly altering the landscape.

Dr. McCormack anticipates more positive developments.

 “All the evidence says that they’re doing just great and have settled in well. We have seen all five of them in the early mornings and late evening.

“And we even have an inkling that there might be some babies in the lodge. That’s the ultimate test of them being happy here; we anticipate they might appear at the end of the summer.”

Beavers are mostly nocturnal, emerging from their lodges at dawn and dusk, making them difficult to spot. However, volunteers have employed motion cameras to document their activities.

Nadya Mirochnitchenko, the ecologist for the Ealing Beaver Project, highlights the beavers’ role in retaining more water on site.

“They are creating more of a wetland area as compared to a more drier area. And that has a lot of benefits for different biodiversity including pond life, birds, insects, bats, newts and frogs. So there is a lot of biodiversity benefits that the beavers can bring.”

Additionally, Dr. McCormack notes that the beavers help manage tree growth.

“We actually have a problem of too many trees. This area is completely in shade in the summer.

“If you think about freshwater ecosystems, they need light to fulfill algal growth and all the other species that grow in there. If they are completely shaded there’s not much light, so we are quite happy to see them tackling some big trees.”

While Europe has been reintroducing beavers for decades, the Ealing project aspires to inspire similar initiatives in other UK cities and towns.

Initially funded with £37,000 from the mayor of London, the project is now seeking additional funding to expand its educational components.

The local community has embraced the beavers, with numerous volunteers monitoring the site and popular beaver walks that quickly sell out.

Beavers are a keystone species, vital for the survival of many other species. The aquatic ecosystems they create support a variety of creatures, many of which are threatened. Biodiversity at Paradise Fields is flourishing, with volunteers spotting species like kingfishers for the first time.

Importantly, the beavers’ work is believed to mitigate flooding.

Dr. McCormack explains that planned flood mitigation efforts were halted in favour of allowing the beavers to perform this role naturally.

“Anecdotally, we have seen a difference,” he says. “They have created five dams and those dams are holding back water. And when we have had a horrifically wet winter like we have just had, we can see the amount of water that is spread out across the land. They are weakening the flow, they’re holding more water on the site and they’re releasing it slowly into urban Greenford.”

Their activities are creating a new habitat that serves as a natural flood defence.

The Ealing beavers represent a successful blend of conservation and practical intervention, addressing urban flooding while enhancing biodiversity.

This project stands as a beacon of nature’s resilience and ingenuity within the city, offering hope for similar urban wildlife initiatives in the future.



At Natural World Fund, we are passionate about rewilding the UK to stop the decline in our wildlife.

Donate now and join in the solution!


Leave A Comment