Wildlife and the Law

Floating pennywort is now banned from sale in the UK. Photo: Darren Tansley

When recording wildlife it is important to make sure that your activities do not harm or disrupt the species that you find. There are many different pieces of legislation protecting species and habitats in the UK, from European legislation protecting species at a larger scale to laws protecting locally important species. More information can be found on the JNCC website.

Protected species

Certain native species are protected by law and it is illegal to disturb them, or sites that they are using, unless you have a license from Natural England. The main piece of legislation governing wildlife in the UK is the Wildlife and Countryside Act. In general, this Act makes it an offence to:

  • Kill, injure or take a wild bird, or take or destroy bird eggs or nests during the breeding season
  • Kill, injure or take a wild animal listed in Schedule 5 of the Act, or destroy places used by these animals
  • Pick, uproot or destroy plants listed in Schedule 8 of the Act

For more information on the Wildlife and Countryside Act please click here.

For more information on protected species licenses please click here.

As a general rule it is better to take the ID guide to the plant or take a photograph rather than pick wildflowers, and to avoid disturbance to birds and mammals wherever possible. Be aware of sites that might contain protected species and ground nesting birds, and avoid sensitive areas.


Invasive Non-Native species

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is illegal to release or allow to escape into the wild any animal which is not ordinarily resident in Great Britain and is not a regular wild visitor, or an animal listed in Schedule 9 to the Act.

It is also illegal to plant or otherwise cause to grow in the wild any plant listed under Schedule 9 of the Act.

In addition, since April 2014 a number of non-native plants are now banned from sale in the UK:

  • Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides, (Fairy Fern)
  • Parrot’s Feather, Myriophyllum aquaticum, (Brazilian Watermilfoil, Myriophyllum brasiliense, Myriophyllum Proserpinacoides, Enydria aquatica)
  • Floating Pennywort, Hydrocotyle ranunculoides 
  • Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides Primrose, Water, Ludwigia grandiflora Primrose, Water, Ludwigia uruguayensis
  • Australian Swamp Stonecrop, Crassula helmsii, (New Zealand Pigmyweed, Tillaea aquatica, Tillaea recurva)

The Non-native species secretariat has more information on the laws affecting non-native species.