Police probe I’m A Celebrity after Springwatch presenter report over non-native cockroaches in Wales

Police probe I’m A Celebrity for ‘releasing non-native cockroaches and spiders into the wild’ in Wales, after complaint by Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams

  • ITV programme is being filmed at Gwrych Castle in north Wales this year
  • Cockroaches, maggots, spiders and worms are poured onto contestants
  • Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams reported the matter to north Wales police
  • Rural officers are probing whether non-native animals escaped into country 

Police are investigating I’m a Celebrity after Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams complained about the release of non-native wildlife into the Welsh countryside, it has emerged.

Cockroaches, maggots, spiders and worms could wreck the habitat which surrounds Gwrych Castle in north Wales, the venue for this year’s show.

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 Guardian revealed that rural crime officers are probing whether any non-native animals might have escaped during filming following a complaint from the TV presenter and naturalist Mr Williams.

Jessica Plummer is covered in cockroaches as she competes in I’m a Celebrity earlier this week

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.’

Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams complained about the 'madness' of releasing non-native species

Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams complained about the ‘madness’ of releasing non-native species

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

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.’

They added: ‘All of the insects used on I’m A Celebrity are non-invasive species. They are only ever released in a contained area and collected immediately after filming.’ 

Although, the non-native insects might not be invasive this does not mean they cannot do irreparable damage to the ecosystem.

The United Nations has described non-native species as one of the main drivers of change in natural habitats, along with global warming.

A spokesperson for north Wales police said: ‘The matter is being investigated by officers from our rural crime team.’

Gwrych Castle woods is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) because it is home to some of the country’s rarest species and habitats.

Less than half a mile away from the castle there is another SSSI called Coed y Gopa (wooded summit) which is home to stunning rare birds including ospreys and goshawks.

Mr Williams told The Guardian that ‘cockroaches are the ultimate survivors and if they survive in north Wales and escape into the wild there, what effect are they going to have?’ 

Vernon Kay has cockroaches poured over him at the castle in north Wales

Vernon Kay has cockroaches poured over him at the castle in north Wales

The police probe comes a week after the RSPCA raised ‘serious concerns’ about the treatment of live animals on the programme. 

The RSPCA released a statement, saying: ‘Since I’m a Celebrity was first aired, animals have been dropped, thrown, handled roughly, crushed, chased, overcrowded, scared by contestants and prevented from escaping from stressful experiences. 

‘There have also been incidents where animals have been killed for no other purpose than entertainment.

‘The show’s messaging and the potential to prompt people to try and copy the “Bushtucker Trials” at home for entertainment is also worrying and we feel that deliberately portraying certain species as nasty or frightening or as objects that can be used purely for entertainment rather than sentient, living creatures sends out totally the wrong message.’

A spokesperson for the programme said: ‘I’m A Celebrity complies with animal welfare law concerning the use of animals and we are proud of our exemplary production practices.’

Celebrities including athlete Sir Mo Farah, TV presenter Vernon Kay and journalist Victoria Derbyshire are among the famous faces taking part in this year’s series. 

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