Autumn Watch’s Chris Packham begs Ant and Dec to stop 'animal abuse' for I’m A Celebrity trials
CHRIS Packham has backed a police investigation into I'm A Celebrity over fears critters have escaped into the Welsh countryside – and begged Ant and Dec to stop animal abuse on the show.
Packham, 59, who fronts BBC nature show Autumnwatch, said if bugs escape the ITV show's Bushtucker Trials "they could cause severe problems".
He told The Guardian: "If any of these species were to naturalise, we could have severe problems. And we do have a history in this country of invasive species which have caused enormous ecological damage."
The animal activist – who often speaks out against I'm A Celeb and has petitioned Ant and Dec to stop using live animals every year since 2000 – added: "We don’t need very popular television programmes demonising, stereotyping and abusing animals which are key components to any ecosystem."
There have been growing calls to ban the use of live animals and bugs on the ITV show.
In the 2015 series, Towie’s Ferne McCann ate a live water spider, prompting 1,500 complaints to TV watchdog Ofcom.
The following year some viewers vented their anger when Scarlett Moffatt scoffed a live beetle.
The use of live critters in the show's infamous eating trials was finally scrapped last year after heavy campaigning from animal charities and wildlife experts including Packham.
The fresh complaint over the possibility that cockroaches, maggots, spiders and worms could have escaped is now being investigated by rural crime officers from north Wales police.
The non-native critters could cause irreversible damage to the wildlife in the 250 acre estate surrounding the castle where the show is being held this year.
It is just a stone's throw from Coed y Gopa – protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Normally the ITV show is filmed in Australia but the crew – and their critters – were forced to relocate to Wales by the coronavirus pandemic.
Police are now investigating after complaints made by the TV presenter and naturalist Iolo Williams.
"I’m not sure which species they’re releasing, but I can tell you they’re not native," Iolo, 58, said.
"We don’t have those cockroaches here in the UK and we certainly don’t have them in north Wales."
Iolo insisted that althought the Bushtucker Trials take place in a contained environment, contestants carry insects back to camp with them.
"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," he added.
A spokesperson for ITV said: "They are only ever released in a contained area and collected immediately after filming."
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