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Dangers of Releasing Invasive Species into the Environment

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Dangers of Releasing Invasive Species into the Environment

Releasing animals into the environment can harm the ecosystem if the animal is an invasive species. Learn what to do instead in this post.

Releasing pets and other animals into the environment could pose a danger to the ecosystem if the animal is an invasive species. That’s what researchers from the Oregon State University have determined in a new study.

The study was based on a survey of teachers across Canada and the US, which found that a shocking one out of four teachers who used live organisms in their science classes released them into the wild when the unit was over. Out of these, only 10 percent did it through a safe planned release program. Although releasing the animals is typically a well-intentioned gesture, it can exacerbate problems with invasive species in the area.

What’s wrong with invasive species?
Many of the organisms used by the teachers surveyed were considered invasive species, including certain water plants, fish, amphibians, turtles, and snails.

The problem with invasive species is that they compete with other animals in the food chain for food and habitat and have the possibility to wipe out native species. They can carry diseases or parasites that are harmful to their new environment. Plus, they may hybridize with other species.

Read more about invasive species in our recent article “Green Invasion.”

What’s the alternative to releasing animals in the wild?
The study authors acknowledge that live animals can be a positive learning tool when handled properly. Schools should ensure that the teachers have access to planned release programs, to prevent any problem with invasive species. The study also suggests using native species when possible.

For those at home, follow these tips:

  • If your pet fish has died, don’t flush it in the toilet; dispose of it in the garbage.
  • If you cannot keep a live pet, consult a veterinarian. They may be able to recommend a local rescue organization that can help.
  • A local humane society or animal shelter may also be able to provide information and resources.
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