IT WOULD seem unthinkable for anybody to want to kill a cute beaver.

But 400 years ago the last of the rodents on the British Isles was hunted, driving the species to extinction in our country because of their valuable fur and oil.

Now Sussex Wildlife Trust and Knepp Estate near Horsham will re-introduce two pairs of beaver this year in a bid to bring them back to Britain.

The beavers will be released under Natural England licence within a large enclosed area for a five-year period to see how they settle into and adapt to their new environment.

The beavers will have over 250 hectares of land, including extensive swathes of willow, available to them, where they can roam and do what they do best: manage floods.

Beavers are extraordinary hydrological engineers, able to build leaky dams and lodges, and create channels and deep pools.

This activity will provide natural flood management benefits within the Adur catchment, as well as maintaining a base flow of water in drought conditions.

“This is a dream come true for us. We know beavers are one of the biggest influences missing from our landscape,” said Isabella Tree, co-owner of Knepp Estate.

“Not only are they masters of water management, they’re hugely beneficial to biodiversity.

“Insects, birds, aquatic plants, fish will all gain from the intricate habitats they create.

“I am longing for the day when I hear a beaver tail slapping on Hammer Pond.”

With wetlands across Sussex devastated by development over the years, bringing back beavers will be crucial in the recovery of this important habitat.

“At least 80 per cent of the UK’s natural wetlands have been damaged or destroyed in the past,” said Fran Southgate of the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

“In Sussex it is probably closer to 95 per cent.

“Wetlands are some of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, and are fantastic carbon sinks, helping to buffer us against climate change too.

“Bringing beavers back to Sussex will start to show us what a healthy wetland should truly look like.”

The cute rodents are known as “keystone species” which can cause ecosystems to collapse if they become extinct.

By creating dams, beavers encourage other species to blossom and reduce pollution in the area.

They are known as the engineers of the waterways and can have a massive impact on their environment as they fell trees to build their dams and lodges.

Their dams slow the rivers,filtering the water and providing other places for wildlife to thrive.

But some say blocking up the river with dams in some places can cause problems with flooding and could harm fish migration.

The beavers are coming to Sussex from Scotland, where the species is now protected.

The beaver releases are being monitored as part of a national project, with specialist ecologists advising.

Another licence has also been granted by Natural England for a beaver release at Valewood on the National Trust’s Black Down Estate on the Sussex-Surrey border.

The first beavers found living in the wild in England for 500 years were found in the West Country in 2014.

The animals, on the River Otter in Devon, were allowed to remain in the wild as long as they remained free of disease.

This was the first time permission had been given to re-introduce a mammal previously extinct in England.

It is thought that there were soon three young “kits” and at least eight adults.

It’s still a mystery how the beavers made their home on the river.

One theory is that it was the work of “beaver bombers” - wildlife campaigners who illegally release animals in to the wild.

The government decided to allow the Devon Wildlife Trust to manage these animals for a five-year trial.

The animals had to be caught and tested to make sure they are a European species

Checks were made to make sure they were and free from tapeworm.

There is a new law which means it is now illegal to cull them or destroy their dams without a licence. It is hoped this could help them breed and thrive in the wild.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust said it is “an important step” to help beavers, which are the second-largest rodent in the world.

A pair of Eurasian beavers have been released on Exmoor in a National Trust effort to curb flooding and improve biodiversity.

The male and female were released in a fenced woodland on Holnicote Estate.

Now we will wait and see if the beavers take to Sussex. The future of the county’s wildlife may depend on them.