The Royal B.C. Museum released its first children’s book to help teach children about invasive animals and plants in B.C. on July 23.
Aliens Among Us, written by Victoria author Alex Van Tol and illustrated by Mike Deas, identifies more than 50 species of alien animals and plants that have established themselves in the province.
“Sometimes people think that an alien species is an invasive species, but that’s not always the case,” Van Tol said.
“An invasive species is one that has a steady march forward and it kind of chews through everything in its path. An aliens species is one that isn’t from British Columbia but isn’t disrupting the ecosystem in the same kind of way.”
The book, which originated from an exhibit a few years ago at the museum, describes how the species got there and how they’ve upset the natural balance of the ecosystem.
It includes mammals, such as the eastern grey squirrel and the North American opossum; amphibians and reptiles such as the American bullfrog and the goldfish; and plants such as English holly and Himalayan blackberries.
Each alien species is also rated with a threat meter ranging from risky to deadly, so readers can identify the serious invaders.
“I went with the [species] readers would be most interested in, the ones that are more familiar to kids, but I also wanted to showcase the ones that were the most destructive,” Van Tol said. “I was surprised by how often people will inadvertently introduce alien species into the wild. For example, when dumping out aquariums, some people will take their red-eared slider turtles to Beacon Hill Park because they see turtles in the pond.”
Gerry Truscott, publisher with the museum, said it’s important for children to learn about what species belong in the local ecosystem.
“Children are the next generation. They’re the ones who are inheriting what we’ve sort of messed up,” Truscott said. “Don’t look at nature as what’s cute and cuddly is the best, because they aren’t. I think it’s important for children to know what to look out for.”