A dam fine sight: Baby beavers  born in Britain for the first time in 400 years

Captured on camera as they swim in a lake, drag pieces of wood to make their dens and play with one another, these are the first beavers to be born in Britain in 400 years.

The enchanting scene is a heartwarming sight for animal lovers as the species was previously extinct in this country.

The 12 baby beaver ‘kits’ – all from the same mother – were born at the 550-acre Lower Mill Estate near Cirencester, Gloucestershire.

Enlarge   Beaver

New born: One of the baby beavers born in Gloucestershire

They are testament to the success of the breeding programme there.

Jeremy Paxton, owner of the estate, brought three pairs of beavers – named Tony and Cherie, Gordon and Sarah and John and Pauline – from Bavaria in 2005.

He has spent almost £1million on the project.

He said: ‘I have always wanted to bring an extinct indigenous species back to Britain.

'The process began with discussions with Defra. I had to demonstrate, through research, that the beavers would be beneficial to the environment.

‘When I brought the six original ones over, they had to be quarantined for six months.

'I hired a farm in Devon and various experts, including vets and environmentalists, and built a beaver-friendly habitat with diving pools to ensure they would be happy and comfortable, as they can die quickly if they’re stressed.’

Mr Paxton was then able to release them into Flagham Fen Lake on the estate, which is home to more than 6,000 protected wildlife species.


Back in Britain: A beaver friendly habitat with diving pools has been built on the estate to ensure the beavers are comfortable

He believes the reason the beavers have bred is because of the close supervision by his team of experts.

‘We would know immediately if they weren’t happy with one another or not bonding.

'They are a “key species” – the habitats they create support up to 32 other endangered species, including water voles and otters.’


Beaver-friendly: A lake on the Gloucestershire estate where beavers have been re-introduced

Beavers were hunted to extinction in Britain in the 16th Century because of demand for their fur and throat glands, which were believed to have medicinal properties.

It is still illegal to release beavers into the countryside, but Mr Paxton said: ‘Within ten years I anticipate their wider release.

'The time will come when people will be spotting them by riverbanks across Britain.’