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Wild Beaver Colony in England to Be Set Free After Being Cleared of Disease

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Beavers in England were once hunted into near extinction, but a small colony of them appears to be thriving and will soon be returned to the wild after the animals were found to be healthy.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was originally going to keep a group of five beavers from the Otter River in captivity due to their risk of becoming infected with Echinococcus multilocularis, which can cause a harmful parasite to grow in humans, The Guardian reports. But after animal and environmental activists called for the beavers to be left alone, arguing that the species was an important part of the ecosystem, the plan has changed.

Now that DEFRA has captured, tested and cleared the beavers of disease, the agency has handed over the animals to the Devon Wildlife Trust, which had applied in January for a five-year license to take care of the beavers and oversee their reintroduction. In a statement, the trust said the beavers were not injured during the testing and appear to be content in their temporary housing.

“We are confident that we will be able to announce the beavers’ return to the Otter in the near future,” the group said.

[The Guardian]

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Write to Nolan Feeney at nolan.feeney@time.com