Beavers back in Sussex for the first time in 400 years

Thanks to the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Knepp Estate, beavers will once more be seen in the the Adur area.

For the first time since they were hunted to near-extinction in the 16th century, beavers have been returned to Sussex.

So-called natural ecosystem engineers, beavers aid in natural flood management and improve water quality – however, they dropped out of our landscapes for very different qualities. Prized for their fur and the medicinal oil found in their tails, they all-but disappeared.

beavers in sussex

Credit: David Plummer / Sussex Wildlife Trust

However, thanks to The Sussex Beaver Trial (an exciting partnership led by the Sussex Wildlife Trust and Knepp Estate’s rewilding project), two pairs of beavers will be re-introduced to Knepp’s Southern Block in late Spring or early Autumn this year.

The happy couples will be released under Natural England licence in two area for a five-year period to see how they adapt to their new environment. Don’t feel too sorry fo them in their closed-off area though, it’s hardly a zoo enclosure. 250 hectares of land, including willow swathes for them to naturally coppice and rivers to naturally flood-manage. Our hydrological engineers could learn a little from these furry boys, who patch leaky dams and build lodges while creating channels and deep pools where needed. The Adur catchment will only benefit from their skill, which also aids flow of water in drought conditions.

beavers in sussex

Credit: David Plummer / Sussex Wildlife Trust

The estate, as you can imagine, is thrilled. Co-owner Isabella Tree said ‘This is a dream come true for us. We know beavers are one of the biggest influences missing from our landscape. Not only are they masters of water management, they’re hugely beneficial to biodiversity. Insects, birds, aquatic plants, fish will all gain from the intricate habitats they create. I am longing for the day when I hear a beaver tail slapping on Hammer Pond.’

‘Bringing beavers back to Sussex will start to show us what a healthy wetland should truly look like’

The Sussex Wildlife Trust is equally proud to be part of such a great project. ‘At least 80% of the UK’s natural wetlands have been damaged or destroyed in the past, and in Sussex it is probably closer to 95%,’ says representative Fran Southgate. ‘Wetlands are some of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, and are fantastic carbon sinks, helping to buffer us against climate change too. Bringing beavers back to Sussex will start to show us what a healthy wetland should truly look like.’

beavers in sussex

Credit: David Plummer / Sussex Wildlife Trust

As keystone wildlife species (a species without which whole ecosystems collapse), it’s hoped that they’ll also reverse some of the declines in wildlife, reduce pollution and thus increase natural fish stocks.

Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England said ‘It is great to see Sussex getting beavers back into the countryside and the formation of new partnerships to support nature’s recovery.’