Invasive species banned in battle to protect UK wildlife


You may not have realised, but they are out there: the monk parakeet, the rosy-faced lovebird, the three-cornered garlic and the hottentot fig. But now the Government is saying, enough.

More than 70 types of foreign birds, mammals, reptiles and plants which have established breeding populations in Britain in recent years are to be outlawed to protect the environment.

In future (if the proposals are accepted after a consultation beginning today), it will be an offence to release these creatures into the wild, except under licence – even though populations of them may be flourishing by your back door.

It will come as a surprise that some are here at all. Although residents of the South-east are increasingly familiar with the rose-ringed parakeet, now breeding in their thousands in Surrey and south London, how many people know that we have several other parrot species breeding or attempting to breed in the wild here, such as the monk and blue-crowned parakeets from South America?

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it has long been an offence to release into the wild any animal or plant which is not a resident or regular visitor to the UK. But under a special schedule of the Act it is also an offence to release certain non-native species which are already established in Britain and considered harmful.

The Government is proposing to add 74 new species to this list. They range from the wild boar and the eagle owl, to the topmouth gudgeon (a small fish) and New Zealand pygmyweed.

Plants, in fact, make up more than half the list – the three-cornered garlic has escaped from cultivation, and the hottentot fig from gardens, and both are threatening native plants.

"Non-native species that become invasive are considered the second greatest threat to wildlife worldwide after habitat destruction," the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said yesterday. "They have adverse impacts on native wildlife by predation, competition and spread of disease. They can threaten economic interests such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and development."

The consultation is also looking at banning the sale of some non-native species considered to be strongly invasive and which present a real risk of escape. These include the American bullfrog, a number of crayfish species, floating pennywort and the water hyacinth.

Damage by such species is thought to amount to £2bn a year, the Wildlife minister, Joan Ruddock, said yesterday. "The threat is greater than ever with climate change," she said. "It is vital we do all we can to prevent these species from establishing in the wild."

The costs of trying to eradicate rhododendron from Snowdonia National Park have been in the region of £45m, and the cost of eradicating Japanese knotweed has been estimated at £1.56bn.

One bit of cheerful news: several species are being removed from the list, as the breeding populations that once occurred have died out. They include the Mongolian gerbil, the coypu (a giant aquatic version of the guinea pig) and the Himalayan porcupine (which was breeding in Devon).

So if being attacked by porcupines in a dark lane in Devon was one of your fears, you can rest easy again.

Alien intruders

Wild boar Sus scrofa

Became extinct here in the 17th century but has been re-established. Causes crop damage. Potential danger to the public.

Monk parakeet Myiopsitta monachus

This South American species is an agricultural pest in continental Europe. There is at least one colony here.

Rosy-faced lovebird Agapornis roseicollis

A fruit pest abroad and, after releases in Britain, it is thought they are breeding in the wild.

Eagle owl Bubo bubo

A large predator of birds and mammals with the potential to have an adverse affect on many of our native species.

Topmouth gudgeon Pseudorasbora parva

Feeds on eggs and larvae of other fish as well as damaging ecosystems.

Grass carp Ctenopharyngodon idella

Introduced specimens of this fish feed on aquatic plants and are damaging freshwater ecosystems.

Three-cornered garlic Allium triquetrum

Was introduced in cultivation but is increasing in abundance and range. Causes damage by direct competition with natives.

Hottentot fig Carpobrotus edulis

was introduced as a garden plant. It causes damage by competing with native species.

New Zealand pygmyweed Crassula helmsii

This species is another that directly competes with native species.

election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'