Beavers must have legal protection in England, which means it will be illegal to kill or harm them as they are officially recognized as native wild animals.
It’s a step forward for the charismatic rodents, which were hunted to extinction in the country 400 years ago but have reappeared due to illegal releases across the country.
The government has also allowed the release of beavers inside the enclosures, and some conservationists hope that later this year in the next beaver strategy there will be permits for the rodents to be released to roam in the wild. .
There are already believed to be hundreds of beavers living in the wild along England’s waterways, with some experts estimating there could be as many as 800.
New legislation, due to come into force on October 1, will make it an offense to deliberately capture, kill, disturb or injure beavers, or damage their breeding sites or resting places – without owning the appropriate license.
Animals are known as “nature’s engineers” because they create wetlands – an important habitat for many plants and animals – when they build dams. By doing so, they also prevent flooding and drought-related problems such as forest fires by keeping water in the ground.
Derek Gow, a farmer-turned-rewilder who is known as one of the country’s leading beaver experts, said: ‘Today’s news that beavers will be given legal protection in England is both appropriate and welcome.
“We have been very slow to recognize the critical role this species plays in creating complex wetland landscapes, which can provide resilience against the two extremes of flooding and drought. All they need from us to secure this goal is understanding, tolerance and space.
There was confusion this week as the plans were due to be announced earlier but appeared to have been pulled at the last minute.
Craig Bennett, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, said at the time: ‘Clarity around legal protections for beavers is crucial if populations are to recover and thrive in the long term – it is hugely disappointing that this legislation has been halted. abruptly, with no explanation why.
“We need to see the widespread return of wild beavers to create vital wetland habitats and restore rivers, many of which have been damaged by centuries of dredging and cut off from floodplains. As England grapples with a natural and climate emergency, we need our beavers back.
However, sources at Defra blamed the rush to publish the legislation before recess for the heist, and said they had always planned to enshrine these protections in law, as it is a requirement. legal under the Berne Convention.