Another White-tailed Eagle has been found dead in Beaufort, Co. Kerry. This is the third White-tailed Eagle known to have died in the same area in the last four weeks and investigators believe that all three birds died from consuming an animal carcass laced with the banned poison Carbofuran. The latest bird was discovered on 9th May floating in the Laune River near Beaufort by a group of kayakers including mountaineer Con Moriarty, his 12 year old daughter Liadh and sisters Caoimhe, Niamh and Lorna Griffin from Killorglin. This death brings to 14 the number of White-tailed Eagles found dead since reintroductions began in 2007. At least seven of these have been poisoned. Tests on the latest birds are pending to identify if poisons were the cause of death.
The group were shocked to find the eagle in the river suspended in vegetation but managed to free the bird with their paddle and get it to the bank. The eagle had a red tag with the letter J indentifying it as a male bird released in Killarney National Park in 2008. All three eagles found in the Beaufort area in the past month were discovered within a kilometre of each other. The previous two birds tested positive for Carbofuran poisoning. A search of land in the vicinity by detectives from An Garda Siochána in Killarney and a veterinary inspector from the Department of Agriculture located several sheep carcasses in various stages of decomposition. A dead raven removed for toxicology from the land also tested positive for Carbofuran. An investigation is ongoing by the Gardaí and Department of Agriculture.
"Our discovery marks the third eagle found dead along the banks of the River Laune below the mouth of the Gap of Dunloe" said finder Con Moriarty. "Here in the rural community of Beaufort, we feel we live in one of the Earth's most beautiful places, surrounded by some of the most magnificent landscapes in Ireland. It is profoundly sad then that in the midst of this peaceful place, ignorant behaviour has led to the death of these great creatures through what appears to be highly dangerous - and mostly banned substances being recklessly doused on the carcass or young lambs or the likes to attract birds of prey and other wildlife" he added.
Norwegian Ambassador to Ireland, Öyvind Nordsletten, also expressed his disappointment on the death of a third sea eagle in a matter or weeks. "We in Norway are deeply concerned about the situation and hope that all can be done to make such poisoning illegal. Norwegians and the Norwegian authorities welcome the White-tailed Sea Eagle Reintroduction in Co. Kerry as a positive step in restoring Ireland's biodiversity. We hope that the unfortunate practice of poisoning will be ended so that this magnificent eagle, that we are very familiar with in Norway, can once again be part of the Irish landscape". As the country which supplies the wild eagles for the Irish reintroduction, Norway is home to some 2,500 pairs of White-tailed Sea Eagles and the birds form an integral part of the country?s avifauna as well as bringing economic benefits to rural areas where eagle watching tourism is an important business.
Jerry O'Grady, Chairman of Killarney Chamber of Tourism & Commerce, commented "Killarney Chamber of Tourism & Commerce and its members have supported this wonderful project from the outset and we have seen first hand the incredible level of local and visitor interest in the programme with great economic potential. In 2009 we hosted a visit by an international panel of experts on sustainability, and the most reported element of their visit was the briefing on the WTE re-introduction programme. The highlight of their visit was a sighting of a white tailed eagle over Dinis. Like us, they see the WTE Programme as an integral part of developing and sustaining our natural heritage. We appeal to the farming representative bodies to issue a clear and unambiguous statement that there is no farming organisation support for such indiscriminate poisoning in Ireland, and we appeal directly to those involved to refrain from this activity so that future generations of Irish people can enjoy the company of these magnificent creatures as our forefathers did in earlier times".
Local councillor Michael Healy-Rae also expressed his disappointment. "I'm very disappointed with the losses of eagles to date in Kerry. While I had my reservations about the reintroduction of the White-tailed Eagle and possible detrimental effects of the birds, this hasn?t been the case. So I am very disappointed that these incidents have been occurring".
Local children have taken a keen interest in the eagles but recent deaths diminish the chances that they will ever see eagles nest in Kerry. "I love seeing the eagles near my home in the valley" said 9 year old Fiadhna Tangney from the Black Valley. "Finding the dead eagle makes me very sad. Why do people want to kill them? Farmers should stop poisoning" she asked. Fiadhna has a special connection with the White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction project. Ever since the birds began to spend time in the Black Valley in winter 2007 she has watched them roost near her house in the valley. The children at Black Valley National School have taken a keen interest in the project. Fiadhna has helped make and paint the tags the eagles have on their wings to indentify individual birds. She even has an eagle named after her! In August 2009 satellite tagged female eagle Fiadhna left Killarney and travelled to the north coast of Co. Antrim where she spent the winter. Since then she has travelled all over Northern Ireland and Donegal, returning to Kerry briefly in early March before heading to Connemara then to Wicklow and back to Antrim. The fact that she has travelled over much of the country without harm suggests that many farming areas are safe places for eagles. But the threat from poisoning remains real.
White-tailed Eagle Project Manager, Dr. Allan Mee, was equally shocked by the discovery of another eagle within a stone's throw of the national park. "I feel utterly devastated by this. Losing yet another bird is tragic. I'm gutted at the loss of this bird, the third on a few weeks in Beaufort. But I'm even sadder for the children who found the bird with Con. What can I say to the kids like Fiadhna who love the birds and have been out with me to watch them in the wild? I saw their faces when I went to the Black Valley School and told them about the first eagle poisoned back in 2007. I feel that with every passing death that another light goes out and children who should be talking about out living heritage are hearing only about death. Their and our heritage is being stolen from us as we speak by a few mindless people. Poisoning is destroying everything we are fighting to achieve. The only word for it is reckless vandalism. We can't sit back and let it happen" he added. "It is time for the government departments to act to ban the use of poisons. The Department of Agriculture has a critical role to play here as it is responsible for farm inspections and environmental grants. Not only do we need to get rid of poisons but the Department needs to urgently address the obvious contradiction of certain individuals getting grants to support environmentally friendly farming and at the same time poisoning wildlife including protected birds such as white-tailed eagles. What does this say to farmers who are doing their best to farm and do not use poisons?" he added. "We are also worried not only about the immediate future of the project but the effects this is having on the perception that people who might want to visit Kerry as a tourist destination is having. We know that eagles are a real attraction to outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers and big numbers visit the Scottish Islands every year to see White-tailed Eagles. I would worry about the message the poisoning is sending out about how we as a people treat the environment" Mee added.
Con Moriarty, who found the dead eagle along with local children, added "Since the arrival of the birds in this area some two years, this project has had a dramatic and highly positive effect on our community. Throughout the region, the presence of these wonderful birds has stirred something deep within people. Sightings in the area are greeted with excitement, families hike to known locations in the hope of seeing them and once again, as in Victorian times, visitors are returning to Killarney to see eagles. Young people in the area have been particularly enthusiastic about the birds, nowhere more than in rural schools like the Black Valley where children from sheep rearing families are actively involved in the monitoring and conservation of the birds. With each death, these children are exposed to the narrow-minded behaviour of neighbours they struggle to understand, of their nation's inability to take meaningful action to protect what it says are important and of the serious danger of denying another generation of Irish children their right to live in harmony with the world around them" he added.
Although the use of poison on meat baits for the control of crows was banned in 2008, the use of meat baits to kill foxes is still permitted under current regulations (Protection of Animals Act 1965). This loophole has allowed the continued use of poison and continues to pose a huge threat to our native birds of prey. However, an amendment to the Wildlife Act which will outlaw all use of poison on meat baits is imminent. In addition, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food fails to ensure that farmers, who are in receipt of direct payments (Single Farm Payment and Rural Environmental Protection Scheme) under the EU Common Agricultural Policy, comply with the Cross Compliance Policy and that they duly implement the Statutory Management Requirements in respect of the obligation not to harm Annex 1 birds of prey (which are protected under the Birds Directive). The Golden Eagle Trust is calling on the Department of Agriculture to initiate immediate farm inspections where poisoning is found to occur.
The ongoing use of toxins in the Irish Agri-Food industry will in time begin to tarnish the very valuable image of natural clean Irish food products especially in foreign markets. The Irish farming sector quite rightly highlights the very highest environmental standards our farmers follow. But the growing evidence of illegal use of poison by a tiny minority of sheep farmers is a gross contradiction of this valuable marketing tool used by an Bord Bia and others. Using poisons tarnishes the clean, green image that the Irish agri-food sector has built its reputation on. The fact that the vast majority of farmers successfully produce food without recourse to poisons begs the question why a small minority can undermine the good image of Irish food production and rural development by using poison. Likewise, poisoning does nothing to enhance the image of the Irish countryside which is important to the tourism industry. On the contrary, ecotourism including wildlife tourism and eagle watching safaris bring in over 2 million pounds annually to the economy of Mull in western Scotland and have the potential to be an important additional selling point in Kerry where eagle tourism is just taking off. Visitor numbers at Glenveagh National Park have increased over the past few years and the resident Golden Eagles have proved to be an important attraction to the public