When errors escape I am a star, “they may trigger critical issues,” says Chris Packham | I’m a star …

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Parts of the Welsh countryside could be permanently damaged if creatures used in I’m a Celebrity get me out of here! Escape, conservationists have warned, amid growing demands to ban the use of live animals on the show.

North Wales police said they advised the ITV show on set management and biosecurity after fears that cockroaches, whip scorpions, mealworms and crabs used in bushtucker trials could escape, according to the TV host and Naturalist Iolo Williams had first raised concerns.

If non-native species flee Gwrych Castle, where the show is filmed, it could have a “spectrum of potential for invasiveness,” said Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife. Although these creatures are relatively small, they can cause permanent damage to native habitats. “Anyone who has ever shared a mosquito net with a mosquito knows that size isn’t everything,” he added.

TV presenter Chris Packham said, “If either of these species were to become naturalized, we could have serious problems. And we have a history of invasive species in this country that have caused enormous ecological damage. “

ITV declined to say which species were used for filming, but said that all insects were “non-invasive” and re-confirmed that the animals used “are only ever released in an enclosed area and collected immediately after filming “. The show is normally filmed in the Australian jungle but will be held in North Wales due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Packham said he wrote to the show’s presenters, Ant and Dec – Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly – every year and encouraged them to stop using live animals. There are many ways to make celebrities uncomfortable that do not involve animal abuse. “We don’t need very popular television programs that demonize, stereotype, and abuse animals that are key components of any ecosystem,” said the Springwatch host.

Around 85% of the non-native species do not cause problems, but those that disrupt sensitive ecosystems and can have devastating consequences. Invasive species are a major driver of global biodiversity decline, and there are around 2,000 established examples in the UK.

White-nosed crabs native to the UK have declined dramatically due to the arrival of invasive American signal crabs, which transmit diseases to which the native species is not naturally resistant. Red squirrels were once widespread in the UK but are near threatened in England, Wales and Northern Ireland after the introduction of gray squirrels in the 1870s. “We have everything from flatworms to snails to invasive crustaceans that harm local wildlife,” Shardlow said.

If non-native creatures flee the castle, it’s hard to predict which ones would become invasive. Tropical species are unlikely to survive a UK winter, but many cockroaches live in cellars and cellars in the UK. “These are species that would not survive in the wild, but survive in human habitats. So it gets a little more complex than just whether or not they survive in the wild, ”Shardlow said.

The filming is located near an old wooded area managed by the Woodland Trust and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). A spokesman for the trust said: “There is currently no evidence that species used for filming was not included. We also don’t know what species it is, so we cannot give any indication of the possible effects.

“The question of whether or not there has been a violation of the law is a matter for the police and we do not want to anticipate the results of their investigation. Of course, we hope that best practices have been followed in this case. “

“I find this program really troubling because it undermines so much of our good work,” said Packham. “The program indirectly says that these animals don’t matter. And that is ignorance at the highest level. “

He also criticized the show for its continued disregard for the welfare and standing of animals, an issue that has been raised repeatedly by the RSPCA. He said, “It’s like some terrible circus you would have seen in the 60’s or 70’s … PG Tips don’t use live chimpanzees to promote their tea because they have learned better. What’s wrong with I’m a Celebrity? What about them where they can’t just wake up to the fact that the world has moved on? ” he said.

A police spokesman said: “Police and Natural Resources in North Wales have received information on the possible release of alien species into ‘non-studio’ areas and we have given the production team appropriate advice on their set management and biosecurity.” The spokesman said the police would not comment further.

You can find more information about the age of extinction here. Follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for the latest news and features

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