Sunday, 28 March 2010

Poisons Continue to Threaten Reintroduction Projects

Some bad news from Ireland - The following is a press release issued on 27th March by the Golden eagle Trust

Two young Red Kites, recently recovered dead in Co. Wicklow, have both tested positive for poison in the State Lab in Celbridge, Co. Kildare. Both birds were collected in Wales by members of the Welsh Kite Trust as part of an ongoing project with the Golden Eagle Trust to restore this magnificent species to Co. Wicklow. The birds were only released last July and news of their poisoning is deeply troubling.

Although all the young kites are fitted with radio transmitters so they may be tracked, both these birds were recovered by concerned members of the public. One was recovered on a road near Aughrim and it was originally thought it may have been struck by a vehicle. The second bird was recovered in more unusual circumstances floating in the sea half a mile off Wicklow head. The bird was recovered by the crew of the Wicklow RNLI lifeboat while they were on operation off the coast of Wicklow. Both birds were submitted for post-mortem and toxicology analysis. This subsequently revealed that the in both cases the cause of death had been ingestion of Alphachloralose.

Alphachloralose, which may be purchased over the counter in many pharmacies and agricultural co-ops, has now been implicated in the poisoning of nine of the reintroduced birds, covering all three species, golden eagle, white-tailed eagle and red kite. In the UK the use of this substance is strictly regulated because of its negative effect on wildlife. In fact it is a well held belief that the continued illegal use of Alphachloralose in the UK is facilitated by the ease of sourcing the poison from Ireland. Its continued wide scale use in Ireland not only threatens our reintroduced species but must also be doing untold damage to other native species that simply goes unreported.

To-date eleven of the birds of prey that are being reintroduced have fallen victim to the illegal use of poisons. So far four different poisons have been identified in the killing of these birds, Alphachloralose, Nitroxinol, Carbofuran and Paraquat. Only one of these chemicals, Alphachloralose, is actually produced as a substance intended for the control of vertebrate species. Illegal poisoning incidents have been confirmed in all four Provinces, clearly this issue is a national issue. The Golden Eagle Trust has lodged a formal complaint with the EU commission over the Irish States failure to protect these birds, which are afforded the highest legal protection possible.

Meanwhile, further toxicology tests on the poisoned Glenveagh Golden Eagle chick, Conall, have found that this bird had also digested a lethal dose of Alphachloralose. Therefore the farmer who put out the dead stillborn or aborted lamb dosed it with both Nitroxinil (found in a liver fluke veterinary medicine) and Alphachloralose (found in rat poison). An Garda Síochána have also received a formal complaint from a member of the public who had their dog poisoned near Ballintrillick, near Gleniff Valley, north County Sligo earlier this spring. A post mortem and toxicology tests shows the dog was poisoned by Strychnine and the complaint focuses on the fact that the dog was poisoned in a fully enclosed private back garden, which the dog had not left for several days before its death. The Gardai are investigating if the Strychnine, which is lethal to humans, was thrown into the back garden where young children were playing. This type of reckless attitude and serious risk to young children is indefensible. We know the Department of Agriculture and national IFA do not condone such actions but they do have an onus to publicly condemn and tackle this type of illegal poisoning and criminality as it continues to tarnish the good name of the vast majority of farmers. The Irish Cattle and Sheep Association (ICSA) have already publicly condemned illegal poisoning.

Mervyn Sunderland of the Wicklow ICSA said “Farmers should be aware of the potential danger of killing Red Kites when using poisons and should refrain from using meat baits. The Red Kites have fit really well into the local area and it would be terrible to see anything threaten their survival here.”

James Hill, Chairman Wicklow IFA, said “I regret the poisoning of the young Red Kites, which would otherwise mature into majestic birds, a number of which I have the pleasure of observing in their natural environment in the course of my farming activities.

Unfortunately society’s aspirations for an unrealistically sanitised rural landscape where all fallen animals legally must be removed from land, militate against successful breeding programmes for birds of prey, whose success depends on an adequate food supply until small mammal populations increase to adequate levels in late spring/ early summer. The role of such birds as scavengers has been forgotten, resulting in a view that predation is their only means of survival.

Perhaps enlightened measures could be adopted in areas associated with such reintroductions which would restore balance in the winter/early spring food supply, thus reducing the perceived threat to sheep farming in these areas. Any reduction in perception would undoubtedly result in less incidents where poisoned baits would be considered necessary.”

Damian Clarke from the Golden Eagle Trust said “It is very disappointing and worrying that these birds were poisoned, especially as this poisoning occurred in the core of the Red Kite range in Wicklow. The frustrating part is that on the ground in this area I have had nothing but support and good will from the locals, farmers and shooting interests. Clearly however there are a number of people involved in farming or game rearing that are continuing to use poisons in a reckless and illegal fashion. This is completely unacceptable and I would ask that all decent law abiding members of these sectors would help us in our efforts to stamp out these illegal activities. I hope that our efforts in this area will receive the full support of the farming and hunting organisations.”

“At this time of year my job should be looking for potential breeding pairs, we hope to have our first Irish Red Kite chicks fledge this year. Instead I find myself collecting poisoned kite corpses, a repeat of this time last year”.

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