Baby beavers – or kits – have been born in England in the wild for the first time and footage of them taking their first swimming lesson has been released.

Devon Wildlife Trust announced the birth of the kit and said their arrival signals the "latest chapter" in a story of great support from the local community.

The beaver population was first confirmed on the River Otter in 2014 – the first time breeding beavers had been found living in the English countryside for 400 years.

Defra initially said it was going to remove the animals over the potential disease risk – but local landowners and Devon Wildlife Trust banded together to create a beaver monitoring project.

The beavers were granted permission to stay in January 2015 and just five months after being declared disease-free, the kits were born.

Spokesman Mark Elliott said: "We are thrilled that the beavers have bred. The baby kits appear fit and healthy and the adults seem as if they are taking their parenting responsibilities very seriously. It tells us that the beavers are very much at home in this corner of Devon.

"The slowly expanding population of these wild animals will help us to gain valuable insights into beavers and their environment - both in terms of animal behaviour and any benefits and effects on the surrounding river system."

He also said they hope the population will expand further over the coming years.

"Beavers give birth to an average of three kits. If both mothers have given birth that could mean that there are now up to 15 beavers on the River Otter. Beavers are relatively slow breeders and it's possible that not all the kits will make it to adulthood. This means the expansion of their numbers during the coming years will be steady rather than rapid.

"The River Otter certainly has room for a slowly growing population. The kits present us with a unique opportunity to study the development of a beaver population in the English countryside."

Sam Bridgewater, Nature Conservation Manager for Clinton Devon Estates, said: "The birth of the kits is very exciting as it indicates that beavers can thrive in the lower River Otter. We still have much to learn about the impacts of an expanding beaver population on the Devon landscape.

"Although we know that beavers can improve the ecological health of rivers, we also know that their damming - particularly in upper catchment areas - and tree-felling behaviour can cause conflict.

"One of the key objectives of the partnership over the five year trial is to gather evidence to clarify the positive and negative impacts of this species and the management techniques that will likely be required in the future to minimise any detrimental impacts of an increasing population."