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Risk analysis of the Egyptian goose in the Netherlands

Egyptian geese (photo: Martin Bonte)

The Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) is a species native to sub-Saharan Africa and the Nile Valley. The species was introduced to England in the 18th century and appeared in wildfowl collections in the Netherlands in the second half of the 20th century. In the Netherlands, escaped or released individuals bred for the first time in the wild in the surroundings of The Hague in 1967. Since then, the species has shown a rapid increase in numbers and has spread throughout the country.

In order to understand the success of this species and any possible ecological, economical and social impacts, the Invasive Alien Species Team of the Ministry of Economy, Agriculture and Innovation commissioned Bureau Waardenburg to carry out a risk analysis.

Since establishing in the Netherlands, the Egyptian goose quickly spread and now its range has expanded into Denmark and to the middle of Germany. To the south, populations from the Netherlands and Brussels in Belgium merged, and nowadays the species is becoming established in France.

In the Netherlands, the Egyptian goose is resident: after the breeding period it occurs in the areas surrounding the breeding sites. During breeding the species is territorial and may chase away other species. Outside of the breeding period, it can form aggregations. The main food source is grass, and hence the species is most frequently seen on grassland, as well as in urban parks.

In 2009, the Dutch breeding population was estimated at approximately 10,000 pairs, while the total population at the end of the breeding period, including juveniles, was thought to number approximately 50,000 individuals.

Over the past decade there has been a decline in the growth of the population from more than 20% per year in 2000 to practically zero in 2009. Based on simulation models, this decline in population growth can be explained by the culling that has occurred in order to control the level of damage to agricultural areas.

According to the risk analysis, the damage to agricultural areas has reached a measurable level. Ecological impacts are more difficult to determine, although impossible to exclude.

Gyimesi, A. & Lensink, R. Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca: an introduced species spreading in and from the Netherlands. Wildfowl (2012) 62: 126-143.

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