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England's first wild beavers for 400 years can stay

Christian Fernsby |
The first beavers to be introduced into the wild in England for 400 years were on Thursday given permission to stay, in what campaigners hailed as a landmark move.

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The animals, prized for their fur, meat and scent glands, had been hunted out of extinction, but mysteriously reappeared in Devon.

The government initially said it would capture and re-home them amid fears they might be carrying disease, but wildlife activists successfully campaigned for them to remain under observation.

After a five year trial examining their impact, environment minister Rebecca Pow said they had improved biodiversity and water quality in the area, and were "making the local landscape more resilient to climate change".

The Devon Wildlife Trust, the charity that ran the trial, hailed the "landmark" decision.

"It signals the first legally sanctioned reintroduction of an extinct native mammal to England," it said in a statement.

Critics say they damage farmland and can cause flooding, as well as disrupting fish populations with their dams.

But supporters argue that in fact their dams limit flooding by holding more water upstream.

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