Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Protected and priority species

Protected and priority species

A number of species of animals and plants found in the wild are protected at a European and national level from being harmed or disturbed.

You may be committing an offence if you capture, kill, injure or disturb any protected animal or if you pick, collect, cut, uproot or destroy any protected plant species.

If your business needs to undertake an activity which is likely to disturb a protected species, such as development of a site, you must apply to either:

  • the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA)
  • NatureScot

for a licence before carrying out the activity.

Protected species include:

  • mammals such as seals, otters, badgers, all bats, pine martens, red squirrels, water voles and harvest mice,
  • all species of naturally occurring birds in the wild
  • amphibians and reptiles such as the common newt and some lizards, slow-worm, great crested newt, grass snake, adder, common toad, natterjack toad
  • invertebrates including moths, butterflies, beetles, dragonflies and snails
  • plants including many mosses, liverworts, lichen and higher plants like ladies slipper and slender naiad
  • a range of fungi.

Identifying whether these species are present on your site can be difficult, and you may need to get advice from the NIEA or from NatureScot.

Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC): Priority species

Applying for a licence

Before you apply to the NIEA, or NatureScot for a licence, you must have finalised all planning consents and conditions.

NIEA: Wildlife licensing

NatureScot: Contact details

Priority species

In addition to protected species, a number have been identified as Priority Species for Conservation Action. To check whether any species found on your land or premises are a priority you can check the lists at:

NIEA: Priority species lists

Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC): UK BAP Priority species lists

If you do have priority species, you should liaise with either:

  • the NIEA or Ulster Wildlife
  • NatureScot or the Scottish Wildlife Trust

over measures you can take to conserve them.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)

CITES regulates international trade in endangered species. If your business is involved in this trade, you must obtain a CITES permit to allow the movement of the species and their derivatives. You can find information from the CITES website.

Convention on Trade in endangered Species (CITES)

Further information

NatureScot: European protected species

In this Guideline

How conservation and biodiversity relate to your business

How businesses rely on natural resources and services

Protected sites and priority habitats

Protected and priority species

Non-native species

Environmental damage to biodiversity

Managing biodiversity: Establish the baseline

Managing biodiversity: Create a site action plan

Managing biodiversity: Measure performance

Work with other organisations on biodiversity

Conservation and biodiversity legislation

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NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms