Beavers' return: Afon Rheidol river near Aberystwyth is preferred site

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Media captionThe Rheidol river in Ceredigion has been chosen as the location for the beavers' return next year although there has been some opposition

Plans to reintroduce beavers to the Welsh countryside after hundreds of years without them have moved a step closer.

The Afon Rheidol river in Ceredigion has been chosen as the location for their return next year.

Should the move go ahead it could see beavers brought in from the UK and around Europe.

But farmers have raised doubts about the suitability of reintroducing the mammal.

Adrian Lloyd Jones, co-ordinator with the Welsh Beaver Project, said six potential sites had been in the running as an beaver "des res" but it had now been narrowed down and the Afon Rheidol was "looking the most favourable".

"I can't see any problems, but if there are then a couple of others are also suitable," he said.

"If all goes well we are aiming for release this time next year," he said.

The trust said beavers disappeared from Wales because they were hunted for their meat, fur and scent glands, and not because their habitats were destroyed.

The idea of returning European beavers to Wales' river valley was drawn up after more than five years' research.

The Welsh Beaver Project sees beavers as having "considerable benefit for biodiversity".

'Boosting tourism'

"(The) reintroduction of beavers to Wales is considered appropriate because of the important ecosystem services beavers can perform - managing wetland habitats, and helping to clean and control water resources, as well as boosting tourism and local economies," it says.

A baby beaver, known as a kit, born in Kent this week could also be one of the new inhabitants of the river next year.

Some farmers are sceptical though and Bernard Llywellyn, National Farmers' Union (NFU) rural affairs board chairman in Wales, said not enough was known about the effect the creature could have.

"There's a certain amount of evidence that in Europe, in particular, that quite considerable damage has been done but in truth we don't really know what problems there will be... and I don't think anyone else does either," he said.

"I haven't seen any evidence that they'll contribute anything to the eco-system.

"The history as far as introducing mammals in particular is not a particularly good one.

"We've seen the grey squirrel, rabbits and even mink so in reality there isn't much evidence to suggest they do any good at all."

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