THE first beavers to live in Wales for several centuries have been introduced to their new home near Machynlleth.

It comes after more than 15 years of work by the Welsh Beaver Project, which had been investigating the feasibility of reintroduction in Wales.

A father and son pair are now living at Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve, with the mother expected to join her family in a few weeks.

The officially-licensed beavers were released by the naturalist and television presenter, Iolo Williams, into a purpose-built enclosure on the reserve.

“It was a real honour to be asked to help release the beavers at Cors Dyfi. Finally, after more than four centuries, these wonderful animals are back where they belong and I’m sure they will prove to be as big an attraction as their osprey neighbours,” he said.

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Beavers were once common across Wales before they were hunted to extinction for their fur, meat and scent glands.

By the end of the Middle Ages they had died out here, and were extinct across the rest of the island by the end of the 16th century.

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Some fishermen and farmers had opposed the beaver reintroduction due to concerns over potential damage to river banks and agricultural land.

However, according to a five-year study by the University of Exeter published last year, beavers alleviate flooding, reduce pollution and help boost populations of fish, amphibians and other wildlife.

They can grow to around 20kg in weight, and contrary to popular misconceptions, beavers are herbivores and do not eat fish.

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Welsh Beaver Project officer Alicia Leowe-Dyke said it would be exciting to see how the animals will help manage the environment at Cors Dyfi.

“These animals bring so many benefits in terms of ecology and biodiversity. Multiple studies have shown that where you have beavers there are benefits to a wide range of wildlife, from plant species, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish and other mammals,” she said.

“Research has also shown that where beavers are allowed to make dams by clearing streams in upland areas, it can really help in slowing down the flow of water which then reduces the risk of downstream flooding. Plus that activity can help store water too.

“In Bavaria, Germany, where beavers were released in the 1960s, they have developed an effective management system. They work with landowners and members of the public.

“Nowadays, Bavarians are used to beavers. In fact, in parts of Munich, they can be spotted in and around the city centre but people don’t even realise they’re there.”

Discussions are ongoing with Natural Resources Wales but eventually the Welsh Beaver Project hopes to release beavers into the wild within the Dyfi catchment as a five-year project to see how the animals fare outside their enclosures.

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