Chris Packham calls for probe into ITV after I’m A Celeb ‘released Turkish crayfish into Wales’

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Chris Packham has called for a police probe into ITV following reports that I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here introduced invasive alien crayfish to Wales during filming.

The BBC Springwatch presenter said ‘invasive’ Turkish crayfish could spell ‘disaster’ for British white-clawed crayfish – as the alien species out-competes its native counterpart for resources.

The freshwater crustaceans were used in episode five to frighten the weary celebrities staying at Gwrych Castle in north Wales, the venue for this year’s show.  

Chris Packham (pictured) has called for a police probe into ITV following reports that I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here introduced invasive alien crayfish to Wales during filming

Chris Packham (pictured) has called for a police probe into ITV following reports that I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here introduced invasive alien crayfish to Wales during filming

For Mo Farah's first trial, he had to reach his hand into a dark wall cavity full of crayfish to get a star

For Mo Farah’s first trial, he had to reach his hand into a dark wall cavity full of crayfish to get a star

The ITV programme is normally filmed in Australia where insects, reptiles and rodents are used to terrify the celebrity contestants in various challenges.

But this year, as a result of coronavirus travel restrictions, it was decided that the 250-acre estate in Wales should be used instead.

The show used Turkish crayfish – or Astacus leptodactylus – in its fifth episode, a Buglife investigation found.

Mo Farah had to reach his hand into a dark wall cavity full of crayfish to get a star. 

Conservationists fear the creatures escaped into the wild, wreaking havoc on the surrounding countryside.  

What are Turkish crayfish and are they harmful to British species?

Turkish crayfish – or Astacus leptodactylus – are not native to Britain but can be found across the country after being introduced by fish sellers in the 1970s.

They were brought to central Europe in the 19th century and are not naturally occurring in the UK.

They grow to up to 12 inches long, are usually a pale yellow or green colour and are known for their long, straight claws.

Turkish crayfish - or Astacus leptodactylus

 Turkish crayfish – or Astacus leptodactylus

Their claws – which resemble slender fingers – give the species another name, narrow clawed crayfish.

They can out compete  British white-clawed crayfish for food – including aquatic plants and small invertebrates.

Their diet means they could also affect British native plant life. 

Releasing the creatures is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act – unless the owners have permission. 

But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have confirmed that I’m A Celebrity was not given a licence to keep the crayfish.

The illegal release of the crayfish would be disastrous for British white-clawed crayfish, who have already been hard hit by the introduction of other foreign species.

Mr Packham said North Wales Police should prosecute the makers of the ITV show.

He said: ‘If they didn’t have the appropriate licence and the necessary precautions in place to prevent these animals entering the UKs freshwater ecosystem then they appear to have broken our environmental laws.

‘Laws which have been drafted to protect our already-depleted biodiversity. 

‘So this would be a serious transgression and a serious matter – that’s why I hope the police will investigate it seriously and prosecute if there is a case. 

‘The abuse of animals on this programme has to come to an end – hopefully this will prompt it.’ 

Police have already launched an investigation into I’m A Celebrity following a complaint from Mr Packham’s Springwatch colleague Iolo Williams earlier this year.

He said cockroaches, maggots, spiders and worms could wreck the habitat surrounding Gwrych Castle.

It was revealed that rural crime officers are probing whether any non-native animals might have escaped during filming following the complaint from Mr Williams.

 He described it as ‘madness’ to pour thousands of cockroaches onto a contestant because there was no hope of retrieving every one of them.

‘I’m not sure which species they’re releasing, but I can tell you they’re not native. We don’t have those cockroaches here in the UK and we certainly don’t have them in north Wales,’ Williams said.

‘There are going to be cockroaches in every nook and cranny along their bodies, you’re going to tell me that every single one of those is found immediately? Of course it’s not.’

At the time, ITV said that they only used non-invasive species and that all of the animals were collected after filming. 

The freshwater crustaceans were used in episode five to frighten the weary celebrities staying at Gwrych Castle in north Wales, the venue for this year's  I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here (presenters Ant and Dec, pictured)

The freshwater crustaceans were used in episode five to frighten the weary celebrities staying at Gwrych Castle in north Wales, the venue for this year’s  I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here (presenters Ant and Dec, pictured) 

The ITV programme is normally filmed in Australia where insects, reptiles and rodents are used to terrify the celebrity contestants in various challenges. But this year, as a result of coronavirus travel restrictions, it was decided that the 250-acre estate in Wales (pictured) should be used instead

The ITV programme is normally filmed in Australia where insects, reptiles and rodents are used to terrify the celebrity contestants in various challenges. But this year, as a result of coronavirus travel restrictions, it was decided that the 250-acre estate in Wales (pictured) should be used instead

A spokesman for ITV said: ‘All of our insects are kept within the filming area. 

‘We have a grate system that the bugs fall through to allow collection after filming. 

‘Contestants on the show also shake themselves down over a grate after filming to collect all insects.’

ITV has been approached for comment on the issue of crayfish. 

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