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I’m a Celebrity ‘brought invasive crayfish to Wales without a licence’, says investigation

16 Mar 2021 3 minute read
The I’m a Celebrity logo by ITV/REX

The makers of I’m a Celebrity brought invasive crayfish to Wales without a licence, according to an investigation by a wildlife charity.

The probe by Buglife has led to fresh calls for police to investigate the popular ITV show, which was hosted live from Gwrych Castle, near Abergele, at the end of last year

Turkish crayfish were used in “bushtucker trials” in episode five of the series, but the show did not have permission to possess them, according to the charity.

TV naturalist Iolo Williams, who raised questions about the introduction of non-native species into the area at the time, has called it “irresponsible”.

The revelations come four months after police launched an investigation into the show over concerns non-native species from the set were escaping into the Welsh countryside.

TV presenter and naturalist Iolo Williams told the Guardian: “What this does is reinforce my thoughts that it was highly irresponsible to posses or release non-native species in this area.

“It doesn’t matter how safe they claim the whole process to be, it’s still highly irresponsible.

“We know we have massive issues with non-native species that have been introduced in the past, and ones that are constantly being introduced – this is costing the country millions of pounds each year.”

‘Dangerously invasive’ 

Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife, who is urging the police to reopen their investigation, added: “Entertainment isn’t one of the reasons why people should be having these dangerously invasive species at all – they just shouldn’t be using invasive species for sort of frivolous purposes,” said

“These crayfish were in a situation which has already been highlighted as potentially risky for the escape of non-native species into the environment.

“Now, I don’t know whether there was any risks of these particular ones escaping but that’s certainly something the police needs to look at.”

The Welsh Government has said it was “unable to find any evidence that a licence application was made in this instance”, while the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it also received no licence application and “would not have issued one for the purpose for which they were used”.

A spokesperson for North Wales Police said: “If someone wishes to provide us with any further information and evidence, we will consider if a subsequent investigation is required.”

Turkish crayfish, which are also called a narrow-clawed crayfish, are listed as a non-native invasive species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Even keeping them in captivity is outlawed by the Prohibition of Keeping of Live Fish (Crayfish) Order 1996. They grow to approximately 15cm long and are one of six non-native crayfish now wild in the UK, after originally being introduced in the 1970s.

Turkish crayfish are common in the English Midlands and south-east England after being introduced to those areas.

The outcompete the native white-clawed crayfish, which is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. Globally, invasive species is regarded as one of the five main drivers of biodiversity decline.

In November, an ITV spokesperson told the Guardian 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.”

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