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THERE’S plenty of talk nowadays of building environment-friendly homes. But creatures of the animal kingdom have instinctively been into the act from way back.
Take the humble beaver, known for building dams, canals and lodges as part of its watery habitat.
Beaver homes actually contribute to the eco-system by creating wetlands that are used by other creatures and are essential to nature and man. The efforts of these industrious mammals in changing its surrounding landscape are only rivalled by humans.
So it was interesting to see a group of men trying to walk in the shoes (or in this case, paws) of beavers by building a human-sized beaver den just to showcase the amazing architectural achievements of these cute semi-aquatic animals.
Part of the Live Like An Animal series on National Geographic Wild (airs Thursdays at 7pm on Astro Channel 550), the episode called Big City Beaver features wildlife enthusiasts Lloyd Buck, Matt Thompson and James Cooper who plan, build and then live in the structure for 24 hours.
First, they observe the notoriously shy creatures at work in a remote loch somewhere in the highlands of Scotland. Then they get cracking and build their new home on the grounds of Alexandra Palace in north London.
With the help of animal experts and engineers, they use more than five tonnes of materials, which include brush, saplings and clay to build the huge “men-den”.
The dome-like structures of beaver homes, called lodges, are originally built from branches and mud. In winter, the frigid temperatures turn the mud and wood into a secure shelter for the animals.
Although it isn’t winter yet, Buck, Thompson and Cooper wear wet suits to keep from freezing in the waters as they slowly put the lodge together. They quickly find out that it’s not an easy life to be a beaver as building the lodge is definitely hard work.
The beavers have the advantage of a naturally oily and waterproof fur with a set of transparent eyelids that function much like goggles. Strong jaws and sharp teeth help to do the job of falling trees and gathering material more efficiently.
An interesting fact: The beaver, found in North America, Europe and Asia, is the only animal with skin flaps behind its teeth that allows it to haul branches without swallowing water. It’s also considered the largest rodent in the world, second only to capybara (native to South America).
Since beavers have a preference for eating tree barks, twigs, roots and sometimes water vegetation or berries, the men turn vegetarians for the day when they live in the lodge.
As it’s in full public view, the lodge and the antics of the men attract onlookers in the surrounding area.
It’s not every day that you get to see three grown men doing crazy stuff. Other episodes of Living Like An Animal see Buck, Cooper and Thompson building and living in nests for hummingbirds and wasps.