Friend or foe: Invasive species in the UK
Minks and grey squirrels from North America, muntjac deer from China, red-necked wallabies from Australia – all have established themselves to varying degrees in different parts of the UK. These and many more are detailed in a new report by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species entitled ‘The State of Britain’s Mammals’.
Some of the UK’s invasive species have effectively ‘gone native’ and become part of local ecosystems. Others, like the American mink, are considered harmful to indigenous British wildlife.
From an article in the London Times:
Britain is facing a surge of invaders with scientists recording 3,800 alien species, including 44 mammals, 326 birds, 1,821 flowering plants and 865 insects.
I guess being a former empire has its blowback, even when it comes to what kinds of animals populate London parks – noticeably grey squirrels and ring-necked parakeets. Native British species that are suffering most from foreign invading competition include red squirrels, water voles and indigenous ladybirds – called ladybugs in the US.
On the other hand, the UK has become a haven for muntjac deer (water deer), now endangered in China and Korea.
The creation of new hybrids, crop damage and the spread of disease are among the concerns associated with non-native species.
From a BBC News article:
The report also warned that global trade and a changing climate could lead to the invasion of more alien species.
So it seems some invasions are good, while others are bad – as far as the animal kingdom goes. Personally I like the idea of colorful parakeets in London parks and wallabies hopping around Scottish isles, but I don’t want the cute native red squirrels to disappear either. Sentimental reasons, I know. I also resent my fellow American expats being referred to as tree rats. They’re squirrels, damn it. Only when we are all treated as equals, as natives, will this nationalistic animal xenophobia end.
by Graham Land