@environmentza is working with @fsgov @DETEA4 as well as local & district municipalities in Goldfields area to eradicate and stop spread of red swamp #crayfish which was discovered in Free State. Twitter: @environmentza

Alien crayfish invade Free State dams, threaten natural aquatic ecosystem

How has the Louisiana crawfish ended up in the Free State?


@environmentza is working with @fsgov @DETEA4 as well as local & district municipalities in Goldfields area to eradicate and stop spread of red swamp #crayfish which was discovered in Free State. Twitter: @environmentza

An intensely invasive and dangerous species has been discovered lurking in the muddy waters of the Free State. Nobody knows how it arrived, and fewer people know how to get rid of it.

Red swamp crayfish have found their way to the Goldfields region of the landlocked Free State province. Bizarrely, these little red critters would have had to travel quite a distance in order to grace South Africa with their presence – specifically from northern Mexico and south-east United States of America.

Indigenous to Mexico and America’s southern states

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is perplexed by the discovery of these inland crayfish but has issued stern warnings on the dangers presented by the mud-dwellers.

After receiving a public tip-off from a concerned, and slightly bemused, farmer – the DEA sent investigators to the scene of the alien sighting; a murky dam in Goldfields.

What they discovered beneath the surface, and burrowed into the mud banks, was a thriving population of red swamp crayfish. Most of the invaders discovered were juveniles, ranging from two to ten centimetres in length, which indicates a rapidly growing colony.

In total, 53 individual crayfish were captured and hauled back to the laboratory for further testing.

Free State crayfish assisted by members of the public

Environmental insiders can’t pinpoint the exact reason for the invaders being in the Free State – but note that the colony’s presence and rapid growth is most likely due to public collusion. Meaning, the crayfish were released into the aquatic system by local residents.

Maybe the founding fathers of Goldfields’ crayfish population were naïve or ignorant – but, whatever their intentions, the DEA has warned of a great danger now crawling through the province, and possibly even the country’s, aquatic system.

‘Alien crayfish are dangerous and should be avoided’ – DEA

The DEA has released a definitive report, confirming and detailing the presence of alien crayfish, saying:

“In many countries the red swamp crayfish has escaped into natural environments where it has decimated indigenous crayfish species and other aquatic organisms and caused irreparable damage to aquatic systems.

It is also the carrier of the highly infectious crayfish plague which has wiped out indigenous crayfish species, especially in Europe. The red swamp crayfish grow very fast and start to reproduce at lengths of 40 cm. The females may carry up to a few thousand eggs at a time.

Adults dig tunnels with depths between 30 to 90 cm where mostly adults and females with young stay. Due to this digging behaviour, it holds a threat especially for irrigation channels and dams.”

Luckily, the red swamp crayfish, also known as the Louisiana crawfish, won’t be displacing any other inland crayfish. Still, the threat of upsetting an ecological balance still looms.

The alien crayfish is prohibited in South Africa – obviously, the species cares little for government regulations.

But the DEA isn’t playing around, they’re out to halt the colonies growth, and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the country. The environmental organisation argues that the public is assisting the alien species in migrating and growing, saying:

“According to reports received, there are people in the Goldfields area that catch these crayfish and then sell them for R10,00 each. This action must be stopped immediately to prevent the further spread of this highly invasive species.

According to the legislation, it is an offence to be in possession of the red swamp crayfish and if a person is found to be in possession, such a person can be fined up to R10 million and/or a prison sentence upon conviction.”