The Independent London Newspaper
23rd July 2014

Letters

Government advisers demand eradication of 'foreign' snakes found living near Camden Lock

Aesculapian snakes FlickR/Mircea Nita

A colony of around 30 Aesculapian snakes have been found living in Camden Lock Pic: FlickR/Mircea Nita

Published: 8 May, 2014
By TOM FOOT

ECOLOGISTS have rushed to the defence of an “illegal” colony of rare snakes that has been found lurking around Camden Lock. 

More than 30 Aesculapian snakes – measuring up to two metres in length and known locally as the “Camden Creatures” – have been discovered living on the banks of the Regent’s Canal feasting on large rats and birds. 

The agile predators – Europe’s third largest snake – are believed to be descended from ancestors who escaped from London Zoo or a nearby Inner London Education Authority building decades ago. 

But the “non-native species” has been ranked “of high concern” by the London Invasive Species Initiative (LISI), a government advisory quango which has called for the “foreign” family of snakes to be eradicated. It claims, if not stopped, the snakes could spread, causing “serious negative impact” on the eco-system. 

This tough-line stance was this week disputed by Dr Wolfgang Wuster, a snake venom expert and senior lecturer of the School of Biological   

Science in Bangor University, who told the New Journal: “Any attempt to eradicate the Aesculapian snake would require justification of resources to be devoted to an almost certainly non-problematic introduced species with little prospects of spread, as opposed to the many far more damaging species already out there.” 

Dr Wuster works with the only other known colony of Aesculapian snakes in this country, near the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay. 

“From a wider and more philosophical point of view, we should ask ourselves what we can really conserve,” he said. 

“Given the near certainty of massive global climate change over the next century, the idea that we can treat the UK fauna and flora like some kind of pre-industrial vicarage garden and preserve it forever without any changes is simply farcical.” 

LISI manager Karen Harper said: “Aesculapian snakes species is listed in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 meaning it is illegal to allow the species to spread or escape into the wild. At present there is limited information on what affects the species may have on our local ecosystems.” 

Comments

Snakes

The only thing that wants getting rid of is this half baked load of idiots on this committee leave these snakes alone they have not done any harm or damage in the decades they have lived in Camden Lock

if i find one its mine

if i find one its mine

camden snakes

Why doesnt the herpotologists from the EU just come over and over time capture the snakes and rehome them in France or wher-ever they native to! We cannot allow the UK to become like Hawaii!! :-( ALL invasive species must be removed without exception.

camden snakes

What nonsense . Did you not read the comment about climate change and the " vicarage garden " point . If you can't spell herpetologist or construct a sentence that isn't devoid of syntax I doubt if you're capable of grasping the minutiae of this situation .

Not a pleasant or informative

Not a pleasant or informative reply.

Good luck in getting rid of

Good luck in getting rid of the rabbits. They're an invasive introduced species that have a detrimental on food production and the economy.

Aesculapian snakes in the UK

As soon as I saw the words 'Aesculapian snakes' I thought "I'm sure there's already a colony of these in the UK." (Ok, I'm cheating, I picked this up from Dr Wuster's Facebook page and wanted to read the article to find out if my memory was correct!) It seems odd to start making a fuss now when the snakes appear to have been there 'for decades' and don't appear to have caused any problems. I wholeheartedly agree with Dr Wuster, not because I'm an expert on snakes, but because I know he is and know that his opinions are based on sound scientific knowledge and a wealth of field study.

Agree with Dr Wuster

The channel is the only reason they weren't already in the UK. The climate of Europe doesn't just change when you reach France and the Aesculapian snake is widespread across Europe.

There is no evidence of negative impact from these snakes, and yes they eat rodents and the occasional small bird, but birds are heavily predated on by the house-cat and rodents are generally seen as pests anyway.

The population of Aesculapian snakes in North Wales should be shown as proof that they have no negative impact on the local ecosystem, they actually raise the biodiversity of the area.

If there is a decline in any species in the UK, loss of habitat is the main cause: aka our fault. This is just sensationalists trying to redirect attention from the real problems.

It's interesting because they

It's interesting because they are a protected European species under article IV of the habitats directive. We can't even get adders covered by this in Europe despite their declines so seems odd to get rid of a population of a protected species that seems to be doing ok

camden creature

Dr Wuster obviously knows his stuff from active field studies. I vote let's listen to him.

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