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The first beavers to live wild in England for centuries are to be allowed to remain in their new home in east Devon after a five-year reintroduction trial.

The government gave permission on Thursday for the reestablished colony to remain in the area, the first wild breeding of beavers in 400 years and the first legally sanctioned reintroduction of an extinct native mammal to England.

Up to 15 family groups of beavers are now estimated to live on the Otter, after seven years in which their future hasn’t alway been assured. Peter Burgess, director of conservation at Devon Wildlife Trust, which has overseen the reintroduction trial, told the Guardian: “There have been some sleepless nights, and it was very stressful in the early stages. We knew the benefits, but things were hanging on a knife edge over securing the licence at the beginning.”

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