Visitors to the Welsh Wildlife Centre and Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve had a real treat this weekend when they met the newest member of the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales team…Hanc the Afanc! (Afanc is Welsh word for Beaver).
Hanc was the ‘Welcome Ambassador’ at the Welsh Wildlife Centre and Oak Tree Holiday Cottage and was a real hit with children! Hanc also had an important message about the history of beavers in Wales and how they used to live in our rivers and wetlands.
Hanc said “Many people aren’t aware that beaver are an important species which were hunted out of our landscape in Wales by the 14th Century. We were hunted for our fur, meat, and scent glands.”
Contrary to popular belief, beavers do not eat fish. They are strict herbivores feeding on soft plants and tree bark (so don’t eat man-made wooden structures). They often coppice broadleaved bankside trees, creating glades and an open tree canopy, which provides ideal habitat for insects, birds and mammals.
Beavers may also dam smaller streams, and the ponds created behind them are fabulous for wildlife such as dragonflies, newts, water voles and fish. It is because beavers benefit so much other wildlife they are known as a ‘keystone’ species.
Networks of dams and ponds also help slow water flow through river catchments, reducing downstream flooding and erosion, trapping sediment and cleaning rivers. The size of individual beaver ponds can be easily controlled by putting culverts through dams, known as ‘beaver deceivers’.
In fact much of the work we do on our nature reserves, such as thinning and coppicing woodland, rewetting bogs, and creating and managing ponds, replicates what would have once been done by beavers, rather than by people with chainsaws and machines.
The Wildlife Trusts in Wales are currently investigating the feasibility of reintroducing beavers to Wales through their Welsh Beaver Project.
Beavers are social animals and known for their care and attention to detail especially when looking after their dams and families’. We want to replicate this behaviour and highlight the importance of providing visitors with a warm Welsh wildlife welcome to the new self-catering Oak Tree Cottage – the Cwtch and the Welsh Wildlife Centre whilst ensuring their visit as interactive as possible and one to remember!