In the beginning Mother Nature had a simple plan, a place for everything and everything in its place. This worked well for several hundred million years; until humans came along and decided we could do better and proceeded to seriously cock things up.
Every critter on this list was taken out of their natural place and dropped down somewhere new, usually just because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Time has shown that it wasnâ€™t a good idea after all, kind of like that roommate you had back in college. You know the one that seemed great in the interview, but later they turned out to be the roommate from hell? Always borrowing money, food, your girlfriend? It turns out some animals are like that too and many governments want them evicted with extreme prejudice.
North American Raccoons: Germany
In 1934 Hermann Goering, a highly ranked Nazi party member received a request from the Reich Forestry service. It seemed a fur farm wanted to release several pairs of lovable, cuddly looking mammals called raccoons into the wilds of Germany to â€œenrich the local faunaâ€. Weâ€™re not sure how the local fauna felt about being enriched, but Goering thought it was a great idea. The request was approved and two pairs of raccoons were released into the German countryside to frolic and do whatever it is raccoons do.
Apparently what raccoons do really well is make more raccoons. There are thought to be 200,000 - 400,000 raccoons in Germany now, and they have no respect for the concept of borders, travel visas or the fact the rest of Europe doesnâ€™t want them visiting. In fact raccoons are a fuzzy ecological disaster, and have been declared a dangerous, invasive species throughout Europe. Theyâ€™ve wiped out local bird populations, and in 2005 they wiped out the Brandenburg vineyardsâ€™ entire harvest.
Red King Crabs: Barents Sea â€“ Russia
Best known as those insanely huge crabs shown on every episode of â€œDeadliest Catchâ€ the Red King Crab is considered by many to be the best tasting crab on the planet.
The 1960â€™s were a time of experimenting and free wheeling hippies, even in the Soviet Union. A group of Soviet scientists got together (We can only imagine they were also huge seafood fans) and decided that what Russia really needed was more seafood. They came up with a plan to release this mobile meat source into a new area to help feed the populace while creating a new fishing industry; one where greedy western capitalists paid big bucks for communist crab meat.
So the Soviets released Red King Crabs into the Barents Sea off the coast of northern Russia. At first it was good, and even better with butter. A new fishing industry was created and for a while it all seemed to be going according to plan. The problem is that no one told the crabs they were supposed to stay in Russia. These crafty crustaceans are now spreading down the coast of western Norway by the millions and show no signs of slowing down. As they spread they scour the sea beds, leaving nothing in their wake but barren sand and furious fishermen who want something done about the rampant crab infestation of their favorite fishing grounds.
African Honey Bees: Brazil
According to Hollywood, African bees are everywhere; just waiting to swarm and sting you to death in a terrifying scene shot from many angles with lots of CGI. Of course Hollywood is also convinced the world is teeming with killer sharks, vicious giant spiders, sparkling vampires and more mutants than downtown Chernobyl. At least with the bees, they got it partially correct.
Back in the 1950â€™s, several colonies of African honey bees were brought to Brazil. The purpose was to introduce genetic material from the tropically adapted African bees into the resident European bees, thereby making better honey producers. Thanks to a somewhat clueless assistant beekeeper, the buggers got loose in 1957 in southeast Brazil.
Worse yet, the queens were part of the jail break and their descendants have since spread throughout the Americas.
Apart from some truly terrible films, the Africanized honey beeâ€™s greatest threat is its aggression. Genetically dominant to European bees, their DNA takes over any colony where cross breeding occurs, and soon the formerly mellow bees develop a serious attitude problem. They swarm more often, and according to the experts are far more â€œdefensiveâ€ which translates into â€œthey will sting you without mercy until you are a swollen, sobbing, misshapen mass of envenomed flesh destined to die horribly.â€ They are moving slowly north despite our attempts to stop the invasion.
Dromedary Camels: Australia
We all know that Australia is the land of poisonous flora and fauna, where even the trees are trying to kill you. It is also a country plagued with invasive species that are taking over, including rabbits, cane toads and camels. Yeah, camels. The spitting beasts with humps that Schwarzenegger punched out in Conan The Barbarian.
The first camel to set hoof in the land down under was imported from the Canary Islands, followed by twenty-four of the spitting critters that arrived in 1860 for an ill-fated expedition. They were a popular choice for exploring Australiaâ€™s outback, needing little water and being able to travel across the sands far easier than horses or people.
In 1866 Sir Thomas Elder decided that what Australia really needed was a camel stud farm, so he imported a great many of the beasts and set about breeding even more of them. This worked great until 1920, when some bright fellows began driving those newfangled horseless carriages around the Outback instead of camels. The animals soon become obsolete as a form of transportation and no longer made their owners any money. The solution to this problem? Easy, release the camels and call it a day. This brilliant bit of thinking is why there are now over 1 million free-ranging, feral camels in the semi-arid deserts of Australia.
The feral camel population is wreaking havoc on the Outbackâ€™s infrastructure. They sometimes destroy taps, pumps and even toilets as a means to obtain water, particularly in times of severe drought. These effects are felt particularly in Aboriginal and other remote communities where the costs of repairs are prohibitive and the camels outnumber the humans.
Considered one of the prettiest snakes, (seriously, who the hell judged THAT beauty contest?) Burmese Pythons are one of the most commonly imported exotic animals into the United States, as well as one of the largest snakes in the world.
The Florida Everglades is now full of pythons, with the Everglades National Park alone home to 10,000 of these carnivorous, cold blooded creatures.
Why are they there? People suck at choosing their pets. Burmese Pythons are adorable (at least to some people) when they are little, but they grow up and can reach lengths of over ten feet long, making them a problem to keep unless you are a skilled snake handler. Instead of being intelligent about giving up their pets, snake owners apparently just look out the window and mutter to themselves â€œset the python free, what harm could it do?â€
Ecologically the python population is a nightmare. They are devouring the indigenous wildlife, and several times have been seen physically fighting the alligators that live in the Everglades. Though this could make a truly bad movie that we expect Hollywood to jump on any moment, itâ€™s bad news for that whole â€œbalance of natureâ€ concept. Since the pythons could conceivably live anywhere in the southern third of the United States, the problem is only expected to get worse.