Animals including the red kite, the goshawk, the barn owl and the wild boar could be completely wiped out of the UK if a new bill to encourage the development of infrastructure is passed, a group of leading scientists warns today.
The threat stems from a new definition of the term “non-native species”, which is so broad that it includes native species that died out in the UK but have since been reintroduced.
The labelling means many species, such as the white-tailed eagle, eagle owl and common crane could be placed at risk as they would classed as non-native, the scientists warned.
“It is entirely possible that this legislation could be used to eradicate some native species from the UK. Wild boar, beaver and goshawk are particularly vulnerable,” said Dr Sarah Durant, a researcher at the Institute of Zoology.
She was the lead signatory in an open letter to the Government written by 24 leading scientists from institutions such as the Natural History Museum, the RSPB, University College London and Oxford and Cambridge universities.
“If the bill is passed in its current form, it could lead to an irreversible loss of native biodiversity... The legislation could also preclude future species reintroductions,” said the letter, published in the journal Nature.
Some non-native species could also be vulnerable because a landowner only needs to prove economic damage to apply for an order to control or eradicate a species.
A Government spokesman said: “These control orders... will not be used for species that are the subject of a legitimate reintroduction programme.”