© Joshua Harris / WWF-UK


Return of the lost ecosystem engineer

Back from extinction in the UK, beavers are a conservation success story. But newer threats mean we’re far from a happy ending, so we must act now to make sure these ecosystem engineers are here to stay.

Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) framed by willow leaves in early morning light, Somerset, UK.
© Joshua Harris / WWF-UK

Wetland warriors

While we sleep, nocturnal rodents with webbed feet and a paddle-shaped tail are helping to restore our freshwater habitats. They build complicated dam systems, which aid the creation of flourishing wetlands, home to a wide variety of wildlife. These furry architects are beavers, and we need their help.

Our river systems have been pushed to the brink through pressure from flash floods, erosion and high levels of pollution. But by stemming the flow of water, beavers reduce flooding, help clean water by trapping pollutants and ease the impact of droughts by creating wetlands.

This natural damming of rivers and streams can reshape the whole environment, allowing rivers to flow naturally, trees to grow tall and uplands to thrive. Having rich, healthy habitats helps us to unleash nature’s power to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Female beaver feeding on willow bark with her two kits
© naturepl.com / Matthew Maran / WWF

Back for good

Despite all the benefits they bring, beavers were hunted to extinction in the UK hundreds of years ago. We’ve also lost much of our wetland habitat; over a third has been destroyed globally since 1970 and it’s disappearing at a rate three times faster than our forests.

But there is hope. Conservation projects to protect and restore nature in the UK, supported by WWF, the RSPB, the National Trust and other organisations, are returning beavers to our rivers and wetlands. You can now find them on the River Otter in Devon, the Stour in Kent, the Wye on the Welsh border, the Rivers Tay and Earn in Scotland and many other locations across the UK.

These important natural engineers are back and we’re beginning to regain an entire ecosystem that was lost with them. Sadly, their return is not without controversy and beavers are still classified as endangered. Now we have them, we mustn’t lose them again.   

Beavers in numbers


beavers in Scotland


beavers in England


global wetland habitats lost since 1970

How will you Go Wild Once a Week?

Our wildlife is amazing - but it’s in crisis. WWF, the RSPB and the National Trust are working together to bring nature back from the brink. We need everyone. Find out how you can go wild once a week and together we can save our wild isles.