"Extinct" Beavers Back in U.K. After 400 Years

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June 1, 2009—After 400 years beavers are once again gnawing at British branches. But because hunting made native beavers regionally extinct, the new generation had to be shipped in from Norway. Video.

© 2009 National Geographic (AP)

Unedited Transcript

More than 400 years after they are believed to have been eliminated from the British Isles, beavers have returned to the UK.

Wildlife conservationists re-introduced three beaver families to the Scottish wild.

Beaver families were captured in Norway last year and quarantined for six months at a centre in Devon.

The beaver families were then driven up to Knapdale Forest in Mid-Argyll, Scotland, and introduced into purpose built lodges.

Reportedly, the lodges were constructed of straw and willow, and filled with carrots and turnips. This allowed the beavers to gnaw through and enter the wild at their own pace.

Its believed the last of the British beavers were killed in the 16th century.

SOUNDBITE (English) Simon Milne, Scottish Wildlife Trust: "This is not just about bringing back an animal that was made extinct by man. It's also about restoring natural processes. Beavers manipulate the landscape on their own. It clears some of the woodland, it coppices trees, it brings in light, it creates much needed wetlands. So it's not only the beavers that win, it's lots of other species as well including dragon flies and otters and birds."

The reintroduction of beavers did draw some criticism amid concern beaver dams would hurt salmon migration in local rivers. But the Scottish Wildlife Trust insists beavers would only be released into a designated trial area.

The Norwegian beavers were chosen because they are considered to be the closest type to the beavers which existed in 16th century Britain.

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