NEW YORK (Reuters) - A beaver has been spotted in New York City for the first time in more than 200 years, marking the return of an animal once vital to the city’s economy and then nearly hunted to extinction.
Biologists with the Wildlife Conservation Society in recent days have photographed a North American beaver they named “Jose” in the Bronx River, a once-filthy waterway that runs through the Bronx Zoo and has since been cleaned up.
“There has not been a sighting of a beaver lodge or a beaver in New York City for over 200 years. It sounds fantastic, but one of the messages that comes out of this is if you give wildlife a chance it will come back,” said John Calvelli, a spokesman for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the Bronx Zoo.
The Bronx was once synonymous with urban decay and by the 1970s the Bronx River was used as a dumping ground that was virtually choked off with refuse.
But residents and the city government began to clean it up, an effort aided by $14.6 million (7.4 million pounds) in federal funding secured since 2000 by U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano of the Bronx.
Biologists named the beaver Jose in Serrano’s honour, Calvelli said on Friday.
Beaver pelts drove the economy of the former New Amsterdam, when New York City was a Dutch trading post full of trappers. The animal appears on the city seal, which in turn appears on the city flag.
Records show the Dutch purchased 7,246 beaver pelts in 1626 and that by 1671 the renamed New York of British rule traded more than 80,000 pelts a year, Calvelli said.
By 1800, beavers were no longer seen east of the Mississippi River and they were nearly extinct by 1930. Today the species has recovered so much that it has returned to its traditional range, Calvelli said.
Editing by Doina Chiacu
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