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Charities’ wildlife crime report criticises I’m a Celebrity for handling of ‘invasive’ animals while at Gwrych Castle

25 Nov 2021 3 minute read
Gwrych Castle. Picture by Robin Parker (CC BY 2.0).

A report on wildlife crime in Wales and England compiled by environmental charities has criticised the makers of I’m a Celebrity for the way they handled invasive species while filming last year’s series at Gwrych Castle.

The makers of I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! were not charged with any crime for using an invasive species of crayfish without a licence during its series in Wales.

But the Wildlife Crime in 2020 report by Wales Environment Link and England’s Wildlife and Countryside Link said that I’m a Celebrity highlighted “the potential consequences of wildlife crime – biosecurity breaches and the spread of invasive species”.

The report said that concerns were raised when viewers, including wildlife presenter Iolo Williams, noticed that buckets of bugs were released on set “in such huge numbers and with such abandon that they would be likely to escape into the wild, in contravention of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981”.

“However, a more detailed analysis of footage by the charity Buglife found that the TV programme had used narrow-clawed crayfish in an episode; a highly invasive crustacean that damages aquatic ecosystems,” the report said.

The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science ultimately decided that “given the nature and scale of the offence we do not think that it warranted referral for prosecution, and we do not anticipate that those involved are likely to repeat the offence.”

An ITV spokesperson told the media last year that animals used are “only ever released in a contained area and collected immediately after filming. They are all bought commercially within the UK and are normally bred as animal food.”

‘Best efforts’

The Wildlife Crime in 2020 report discovered that crimes against wildlife had surged in Wales and England last year, partly as a result of the Covid pandemic.

“Reports of likely crimes against badgers rose by 36% in 2020 compared to 2019 with reports of potential fishing crimes up by more than a third (34.5%),” the report said.

“The lockdowns of 2020 appear to have contributed to this in two ways. There may have been a perception amongst offenders that with the police busy enforcing social restrictions wild animals could be harmed with relative impunity.

“With increased use of the countryside in the pandemic more members of the public were also present to witness and report incidents of concern. Further along the crime & justice pathway we have seen a drop in prosecutions and convictions in some areas, including hunting and fishing.

“The pressures inflicted by COVID appear to have hindered the ability of police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service to bring hunting and fishing cases to trial, despite their best efforts.”

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