1. ITV Report

England's only wild beavers give birth - the first known new arrivals for the species in 400 years

The only colony of wild beavers left in England has had a litter of babies - the first to be bred in the country in almost 400 years, conservationists have revealed.

The youngsters, known as kits, have been spotted taking their first swim and hitching onto their mothers' backs through the waters of the River Otter in Devon.

'Daddy' beaver waits for his offspring to make it across the water Credit: Tom Buckley

Retired scientist and wildlife buff Tom Buckley managed to snap pictures of the tiny creatures venturing into the open, and said he was "totally overwhelmed" by the sight.

I saw their mother swimming with one of them in her mouth to an area nearby where their father was waiting to greet them.

One of the kits, however, seemed extremely unhappy to be out in the big, wide world and as soon as its mother let it go rushed back to its burrow. Not surprising really - the world can be a very scary place.

This was possibly their first experience of what lies outside of their burrow."

– Tom Buckley

The colony of beavers has been living wild on the river for between three and 10 years, making a surprise return after the species was hunted to extinction in the UK hundreds of years ago.

Their origin is not known, but is thought to be the result of an escape or unauthorised deliberate release.

Government ministers drew up plans to capture the creatures and keep them in captivity after evidence emerged last year that they may be breeding.

But following public outcry and a vocal campaign, the beavers were simply tested for disease before being released back into the wild.

One of the kits clings to its mother for safety Credit: Tom Buckley

Their impact on the river and surrounding countryside is being monitored by Devon Wildife Trust, who has asked dog walkers and visitors to keep dogs on leads and stick to footpaths to avoid disturbing the new arrivals.

Trust spokesman Mark Elliot said they were "thrilled" that the beavers had given birth.

The baby kits appear fit and healthy and the adults seem as if they are taking their parenting responsibilities very seriously.

This tells us that the beavers are very much at home in this part of Devon.

The beavers have proved enormously popular with local people and we understand that many will now want to see the kits for themselves.

But like all new parents, the beavers will need a bit of space and peace at this time, so we ask that visitors take care not to disturb them.

– Mark Elliot, Devon Wildlife Trust

Beavers have three kits per litter, on average - meaning if both mothers on the river have given birth, the population may now have expanded to 15.

The kits test out the water Credit: Tom Buckley

Wildlife groups claim the return of the aquatic mammals, which cut down trees and dam rivers, could prove invaluable in preventing flooding, maintaining water quality and encouraging other wildlife.

But farmers and anglers have voiced concerns they might damage the landscape and fish migration routes.

They have argues that conservation efforts should be focused on the UK's existing wildlife.