ferals in UK (longish)

Subject: ferals in UK (longish)
From: brian fleming <>
Date: Thu, 10 Jan 2008 21:11:56 +1100
Britain's natural fauna is somewhat scanty (so is its native flora). Large numbers of species have been introduced, possibly since Roman times, certainly since the Normans. Mainly so that the upper classes could say "It's a nice day, let's go out and kill something." Deliberate introductions I can think of, off the top of my head, without looking things up, include Fallow Deer, Muntjac, Rabbits, Common Pheasant (many subspecies brought from all Asia between the Caucasus and China), Red-legged Partridge and the Capercailzie (an 18th Century re-introduction after it became extinct in Scotland). Even the edible or Roman Snail. (Of course there are many more). Meanwhile many species became extinct - Wolf, Bear, Wild Boar, and Reindeer, plus many other creatures (habitat destruction and sporting gentry).

I don't believe myself that the House Sparrow and the much more recent Collared Dove, which both followed agricultural development, can be viewed as 'feral' in the strict sense. (The Latin word 'fera' just means 'wild beast', hence the legal statement that the cat is an animal which is 'ferae naturae', ie 'wild by nature', because it is very hard to control). 'Feral' to me means something 'let loose' or 'escaped'. Brumbies and mustangs are feral horses; if there were still any Przhevalski's Horses left in Mongolia, they would be truly wild.

Ornamental wildfowl found running or flying loose in Britain include American Wood Duck, Mandarin Duck, Egyptian Goose, Ruddy Shelduck and of course the much spoken of canada goose - which originally came to St. James Park as a present to Charles II. The Russsian Ambassador gave him some Pelicans - descendants still present - and I suppose if he had had more than a single Cassowary (via Batavia I suppose) it might also have established itself as a breeding species. (Yes, rather unlikely, but you never know!) Many cage escapees such as the Indian Ringed Parakeet are also there. All these creatures were considered to be 'enriching the fauna' if they could esatblish themselves in the wild.

Sir Peter Scott started breeding the American stifftail, the Ruddy Duck, at Slimbridge. His staff intended to pinion the ducklings as soon as they hatched so they could not escape - but they were able to move much faster and sooner than was imagined possible. Full-winged Ruddy Duck soon appeared all over England, than made it to the Continent, where they out-compete their much rarer and endangered congener the White-headed Duck It just shows that you cannot be too careful.

So many animals have been introduced worldwide with good intentions - let us be grateful that the RAOU spoke up very strongly against those who in the early 1900s wanted to 'control' the Rabbits by releasing Weasels, Stoats and Mongooses. So those four Canada Geese in NSW should be rounded up. On the other hand self-introduced wanderers such as the Grey-headed Lapwing and the Ballina SIPO can be left alone.
   Sorry if this is so much rabbiting on!
  Anthea Fleming
in Ivanhoe, Vic,
surrounded by Blackbirds, Indian Mynahs, Starlings, Spotted Doves (Thakyou, Acclimatization Society!) plus Pied Currawongs, Rainbow Lorikeets and the odd Crested Pigeon, which came by 'normal extension of range' over the last 12 to 15 years or so.


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