Dark Days for Ireland’s Eagles
What i read in the newspaper yesterday completely stopped me in my tracks, and made me, above all things, very, very sad. Sad, and angry. (what I read was this: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/0303/1224265502596.html
About 200 years ago, the last eagles were killed in Ireland. Golden eagles and white-tailed sea eagles used to be commonplace in Ireland, especially along the west coast. They were mercilessly hunted, shot, poisoned, because farmers believed they would take their lambs.
But, the opposite is the case – the eagles actually help keep down fox and crow populations, which would help the farmers.
There are currently three re-introduction programmes for birds of prey in Ireland – red kites in Wicklow, sea eagles in Kerry, and golden eagles in Donegal. You can read more here: http://www.goldeneagle.ie, that’s the website of the golden eagle trust, who runs the re-introduction programmes.
Last year, the first golden eagle in 200 years hatched in Ireland, and survived. The young male was named Conall, and spent some time roaming around the mountains in county Sligo.
Now, Conall was found poisoned.
Laying out poisoned bait is still done by a small minority of farmers here in Ireland, to control crow and fox populations, which are a danger to newborn lambs. Poisoning birds of prey is illegal, but after too many poisoned birds, nothing’s been done.
The level of ignorance and stupidity is staggering – the Irish Farming Journal has only recently published an article advising its readers to lace dead lambs or afterbirths with poison: “Alphachloralose placed in a dead lamb or the afterbirth can help trap foxes.” [Farmers Journal, 6th February 2010]
Absolutely appaling. If the farmer tied up the bait, and covered it, passing birds of prey wouldn’t see it, and wouldn’t eat from it. Ground animals like foxes would still smell the bait.
Another thing is, eagles will not go after healthy lambs. They’re scavengers, eat mainly small animals like crows, fox cubs (all of which would, in fact, be beneficial to the farmer), or dead things. In Europe, I don’t think there’s been even one case of an eagle taking a live and healthy lamb. In Scotland, there are many pairs of golden and white-tailed sea eagles, and the sheep farming hasn’t been affected, they live together, alongside each other. Why can’t this be done in Ireland?
Of the 53 eagles that were released in an effort to bring these magnificient birds back to Ireland, between 20 and 25 are already dead. Poisoned. Some were even shot. Yes, shot. Whatever else about poisoning – it may not have been intended for the bird of prey, but mainly for foxes, badgers and crows. It’s a despicable practice nonetheless. But SHOOTING an eagle? Shooting a kite? These people that do that know what they’re doing. They should be shot themselves, the gobshites.
I’m gutted by all this – and, really, it doesn’t make any sense, does it – the Irish should be embracing the eagles, like the inhabitants of the Scottish isle of Mull, which makes something like 3 million pounds annually from tourism directly related to the eagles that can be found there.
During my (ongoing) volunteer work at the Burren Birds of Prey centre, I have learnt a lot about birds of prey. I’ve grown to love these animals, and I firmly believe that they need our protection, and help.
The Golden Eagle Trust have more information on their website – http://www.goldeneagle.com