Invading Ireland: the coypu

By Dr Colin Lawton, National University of Ireland Galway

Coypu on a riverbank
Coypu are strong swimmers and live in burrows or nests near water; on riverbanks, lake shores, or wetlands. (Photo: Thorsten Krienke, Flickr)

One of the greatest threats to biodiversity is the invasion of alien species into an ecosystem.  These can occur through natural migrations as a result of recent habitat or climate change, or species can be introduced by human activities, both accidentally or deliberately.  Invasions are occurring at an increasing rate as a result of faster environmental change and increased movement by human populations.

Like all countries, Ireland has experienced a number of mammal invasions in recent decades.  Species such as the grey squirrel, greater white toothed shrew, bank voles and American mink have all become established, and in each case the opportunity to eradicate the animal and stop the invasion has long gone. Continue reading

Giant Rodent Invasion: The Coypu

Myocastor coypus (Coypu), swimming in Japan (By Alpsdake via Wikimedia Commons)
Myocastor coypus (coypu), swimming in Japan (By Alpsdake, via Wikimedia Commons)

Listed as among the Top 100 of the world’s worst invasive species, the coypu (also known as nutria) can cause severe damage to the environment in countries where it is an introduced species. Largely introduced as stock for fur farms and for private ownership, it has spread from its native range in South America to North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.  Coypu can be found near rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and brackish marsh in coastal areas.

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