Conservationists and beaver re-wilding campaigners across Britain are now trialling many projects, bringing beavers into managed environments to study their impact on nature.
Wild beavers had been living in Great Britain over 400 years ago before going extinct. They were mainly hunted for their fur and glandular oil, secreted from the base of their tail, thought to contain medicinal properties.
Beavers are known as a "keystone species". This is because their natural behaviour has a big impact on our landscape and wildlife. By damming waterways, beavers pool water, slowing the flow in rivers and streams. This water floods an area, creating new wetland and attracting wildlife, providing a home and water source for many species.
As wildlife conservation is at the heart of all the Sanctuary´s efforts, we have paired up with various conservation groups across the country to decide on the best use of the large woodland area at the Sanctuary. It was quickly decided that beavers would make an excellent addition to the Sanctuary, providing them with the perfect habitat which will in return open doors to research to further study their impact on the environment.
The Sanctuary´s old otter enclosure has been repurposed and updated to create a new "Beaver Nursery" for the pair, where they will spend their first few months settling in, with the team keeping a close eye on their behaviour and eating habits.
Once they have reached a good healthy weight and have the capability of building lodges and dams, they will be moved to their brand-new home in the large 5 km2 wooded area behind the "Beaver Nursery" to live a natural beaver life. "The Secret Creek" project would not have been possible without the vital funding provided by the Postcode Local Trust.
We are planning various research projects to understand more about beaver behaviour in the wild and how they impact the environment they inhabit. It is known that their presence is beneficial and may even help to combat climate change.
The projects will mainly focus on monitoring water pollution and impact of damming, biodiversity counts, landscape changes and public perception on beaver rewilding which in return will generate educational content to share with guests visiting the Seal Sanctuary.
Beavers are very secretive creatures, mostly active during the night, which makes it difficult for the public to engage with these mammals. The aim of the "The Secret Creek" area at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary is to provide engaging educational content for visitors to learn about these enigmatic animals. Returning guests will see landscape changes happening over time, while there is always the possibility to catch a glimpse of the beaver sisters hard at work.
Introduction to the Woodland Area
You may be wondering why the Cornish Seal Sanctuary have decided to introduce Beavers to the woodland area, so let´s take you back to the beginning.
Beavers are native to Britain and were once common in our countryside, but they were regularly hunted by humans and became extinct over 400 years ago. The last wild beaver seen on record was during the 16th Century.
Beavers were hunted by humans for several reasons; their fur was used for hats and coat linings, their meat was eaten and they were also prized for a special substance called "castoreum". This substance is made in special sacs near the beaver´s bottoms. It is used by beavers, along with urine, to mark their territories, but it smells of vanilla and humans used it for perfumes and as a flavouring for food.
Our nature is in crisis. Due to human activity such as habitat destruction, pollution and the introduction of invasive species we are losing important species. In 2016 research showed that 56% of the U.K.´s wild species have declined in the last 50 years, with one in ten facing extinction.
One habitat which has really suffered in the U.K. is wetland habitat. We have seen a loss of 90% of wetland in the last century. Ponds and lakes are some of the most species-rich habitats in Britain. Plants, birds, insects, fish, amphibians, mammals: lots of animals use wetland habitats meaning they are really important to our countryside. Now, 10% of species which use wetland habitat are facing extinction.
Tamara Cooper, the Sanctuary´s Curator said "Once our beaver sister pair is released into their new 5 km2 home we will closely monitor their progress and landscape changes. Our desire is to conduct extensive research on biodiversity counts as the environment changes and water quality to see what impact dams have on water pollution. This research will provide us with valuable information which could support future rewilding projects across the country!"
This Project wouldn´t had happened without the help of...
"The Secret Creek" project at the Sanctuary would never be possible without the help and support of other organisations. From licensing, rescue, transport and care for these beaver sisters, it has been a journey for all.
Natural England has provided all necessary licensing to keep beavers at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary.
The Beaver Trust and Chris Jones, Farmer and Director of Restoration, were invaluable support through the whole project development, sharing information and advice on how successfully managed beaver re-introduction.
Dr Roisin Campbell-Palmer, beaver ecologist and practitioner, rescued and transported the beavers to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, while working closely with Five Sister Zoo in West Calder for their initial care and vet checks and later with Derek Gow Consultancy for their temporary housing. Dr Roisin Campbell-Palmer and her colleague, Robert Needham, were also integral in conducting a feasibility study on "The Secret Creek" area at the Sanctuary to assess suitability of the habitat for the beavers.
Postcode Local Trust for funding "The Secret Creek" project.
The Cornish Seal Sanctuary are thrilled to be able to provide a home for their two rescued beaver sisters and welcome their amazing contribution by landscaping the Sanctuary´s woodland to benefit a vast amount of wildlife and species in the future.
Life is just beginning for these Beavers!
These two were given a second chance, and this is just the beginning of their story. The Cornish Seal Sanctuary needs your help to ensure we can provide expert care to the rescued girls, carry out the vital ecological projects and introduce an exciting visitors centre. The centre will provide engaging educational content for visitors to learn about these amazing animals, and returning guests will see landscape changes, and can even spot the beaver sisters hard at work.