Taking over: An invasive Indian laurel tree engulfs a house. The huge root system of this plant can be extremely damaging to buildings and stonework and it is considered a threat to Bermuda’s buildings as well as the natural environment. *Photo supplied
Taking over: An invasive Indian laurel tree engulfs a house. The huge root system of this plant can be extremely damaging to buildings and stonework and it is considered a threat to Bermuda’s buildings as well as the natural environment. *Photo supplied

FRIDAY, JUNE 15: Bermuda’s delicate ecosystem is being threatened by rising numbers of invasive species, conservationists have warned.

Rabbits and guinea pigs are ‘running amok’ in some national parks because irresponsible pet owners have simply released the creatures instead of trying to re-home them.

While the feral chicken population continues to rocket and has barely been dented by the culling of  3,200 animals in the last six months.

Drew Pettit, director of Conservation Services, told the Bermuda Sun that non-native plants were also displacing endemic species and dramatically impacting the island’s bio diversity.

He said: “More and more the Department of Conservation Services is receiving calls or seeing dumped pets running wild in our nature reserves and parks.

“They range from guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, chickens and red-eared slider terrapins.

Barely surviving

“None of these animals have any predators and as such are either breeding and feeding uncontrollably or are barely surviving.”  

Bermuda is home to nearly a quarter of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s top 100 worst invasive alien species, including the red-eared slider terrapin, Kudzu vine, and Brazilian pepper tree.

And the island is reported to be the worst Overseas Territory when it comes to invasive species.

Mr Pettit added: “Invasive species are the greatest threat to Bermuda’s biodiversity, especially protected native and endemic species.

“Bermuda’s habitats have become increasingly impacted by a number of aggressive invasive species that were originally imported for horticultural or agricultural reasons or for the pet trade

“They have since escaped their intended locations and begun breeding or self seeding rapidly in the wild.

“With no natural predators and the ability to reproduce quickly invasive species prey on endemic and native animals and compete for food and habitat.

“This further decreases the already low numbers of indigenous species and diminishes their chances for survival.”

Conservationists and government officials are currently looking at new policies as well as legislation to tackle the rising tide of invasive plants and animals on the island.

Bio diversity officer Alison Copeland added: “Where eradication is not possible, control and management are attempted.

“To make the recovery of protected native and endemic species possible, the threat posed by invasive species must be addressed.

“Bermuda is particularly vulnerable to the introduction of invasive species through our importation of food and other consumer products.

“These shipments can inadvertently introduce dangerous species into our environment.

“Additionally, people smuggling plants, animals, seeds or fruit back from their vacations could accidentally introduce an invasive species that will seriously damage Bermuda’s environment.

“Irresponsible pet ownership is also ensuring that an ever increasing variety of animals are making their way into Bermuda’s habitats.”

Bermuda is home to 24 species from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of the world’s top 100 worst invasive species.

They include:

  • Caulerpa seaweed
  • Water hyacinth
  • African tulip tree (not invasive in Bermuda)
  • Brazilian Pepper tree
  • Erect prickly pear (native and not invasive in Bermuda)
  • Giant reed
  • Kudzu
  • Lantana
  • Shoebutton ardisia
  • Strawberry guava
  • Wedelia (seaside creeping daisy)
  • Golden apple snail
  • Argentine ant
  • Big-headed ant
  • Rosy wolf snail
  • Cane toad (not a serious problem in Bermuda)
  • Starling
  • Red-eared slider
  • Domestic cat
  • Goat
  • Mouse
  • Pig
  • Rabbit
  • Ship rat