Published: 00:01, 15 August 2014
From wallabies to scorpions - yes you read that right - Kent is now home to some surprising creatures. But this foreign flora and fauna is not always welcomed by residents and conservationists alike.
Here are just a few of the non-native species colonising the county:
Common wall lizard
The brightly coloured common wall lizard can be spotted in Folkestone where, unlike native lizards, it can often be seen running vertically up walls – the clue’s in the name.
It is native to central and southern Europe where it is a protected species, but in Kent, it’s viewed with growing concern by herpetologists as it can spread disease to UK reptiles.
Chinese mitten crab
A rare and expensive delicacy in Shanghai, the Chinese mitten crab has recently been caught off Dungeness and several other parts of the Kent coast.
The crab is named for its furry mitten-like claws, and its presence is worrying conservationists because it out competes native species.
It’s worth remembering though that 1kg of the crabs can cost the equivalent of £50 in China, and enterprising Shanghai businessmen have even suggested shipping captured mitten crabs back from Europe to eat.
Yellow tailed scorpions
A colony of yellow tailed scorpions has set up home around Sheerness docks where, with the help of a UV torch, individuals can be spotted at night roaming the walls looking for food.
The two-inch long arachnids can sting, but rarely do, with the effect comparable to a bee sting. It’s currently estimated there are about 15,000 of them, with the numbers rising each year.
This really is a bit of a mystery. Wallabies, normally found more than 9,000 miles away in Australia, have been spotted in Kent several times in the last few years.
The marsupials have been seen hopping down paths and even eating grass in people’s gardens. Sightings seem to centre in the countryside between Ashford and Maidstone.
False widow spiders
False widow spiders hit the news earlier this year but these invaders have been living in Kent for the last hundred years or so.
The spiders - originally from the Canary Islands - are repeatedly introduced through ports in shipments of bananas and have now gone native along the south coast.
The bite can cause pain, swelling and fever which can last a couple of days.
Arguably more dangerous than invasive spiders and scorpions, giant hogweed was introduced as an ornamental plant for lake sides and gardens by the Victorians.
They failed to notice the massive plant’s sap can cause serious and recurring skin irritation, and even blindness.
In fact, if you spot it in your garden it’s better to call in the experts instead of trying to remove it yourself.
Rose ringed parakeets
Kent has become home to the boisterous and brightly coloured rose ringed parakeet which now boasts large colonies in Thanet, particularly in King George Memorial Park, Ramsgate.
While some people like the striking parrots, they are noisy and sometimes violent towards native bird species, monopolising garden bird tables.
Scientists are not sure how the parakeets – originally from Africa and India – survive Kent’s colder climate, yet the birds are clearly thriving.
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