Pair of beavers released into the wild in the South Downs

Watch the moment the first beaver is released into the wild

A pair of beavers have been released in Sussex as part of efforts to 'rewild' the landscape.

They were released into a 15 hectare enclosure which has been built within the South Downs.

Beavers became extinct in the UK in the 16th century because of hunting for their fur, meat and scent glands.

While a growing number of sites in the British Isles have reintroduced beavers, this is the first release by the National Trust in South East England, following the successful pilot at Holnicote on Exmoor early in 2020 where the beavers have thrived.

A pair of beavers released in the South Downs (March 2021) Credit: ITV News Meridian

A male and female have been introduced, in the hope they will become a breeding pair.

The pair were relocated from wild populations in Scotland after health screening.

The South Downs programme will be carefully monitored for benefits such as water quality, floodwater management and wildlife.

The beavers were released within the South Downs. Credit: ITV News Meridian

The release is part of the National Trust's ambitions to create priority habitats for nature and to increase the diversity of species and wildlife on the land in its care.  

David Elliott, National Trust Lead Ranger for the South Downs West, said: "We are reintroducing a species which has been absent from this landscape for the last 400 years.

"Beavers are nature's water engineers, they can help bring back the natural processes that have been missing from our environment. They'll help us create a pyramid of life based on wetlands - including bird and bat species as their prey increases in abundance."

The National Trust said they were not disclosing the location of the beaver enclosure, to give them the best chance of establishing themselves in their new home.