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Tue4th May 2010

In what has been described as the worst spate of poisoning in recent years, 10 protected birds of prey including three Red Kites, two White-tailed Eagles, a Golden Eagle, three Buzzards and a Peregrine Falcon have been confirmed poisoned in the Republic of Ireland. Two Red Kites and a Peregrine were found dead in Co. Wicklow, a third Red Kite released in Northern Ireland was found dead in Co. Kildare, a Golden Eagle in Co. Leitrim, and Buzzards in west Waterford, east Cork and Donegal (one of which recovered from poisoning) . All of these were poisoned by ingesting meat baits laced with Alphachloralose.

Within the last few weeks two White-tailed Eagles were found dead near Beaufort, Co. Kerry. Toxicology analyses at the State Laboratory in Celbridge, Co. Kildare, and the SASA lab, Edinburgh, Scotland, confirmed that both eagles had been poisoned by Carbofuran, a substance previously used as a pesticide but now illegal in Ireland. Searches of land in the Beaufort area located a dead lamb, a raven also poisoned by Carbofuran, as well as other livestock in various stages of decomposition. A male White-tailed Eagle released in Killarney National Park in 2008 was found in the River Laune near Beaufort by Stewart Stephens, Laune Angling Club, on 4 April and recovered the following day. A second male White-tailed Eagle, released in 2007 was found on land in Beaufort on 12 April. Both eagles were in excellent condition and had been surviving well in the wild for 2-3 years until poisoned. One eagle had been feeding on the carcass of a sheep when it died as wool was found in the crop along with meat. An investigation is ongoing by the Department of Agriculture and Gardaí in Killarney.

"The loss of a further two White-tailed Eagles at this time is devastating", said Dr. Allan Mee, Manager of the White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction Project in Kerry. "The older male could have been one of the first birds to breed in the wild in Ireland in over 100 years had it survived. That it was in such good condition at the time of its death makes its loss even more tragic. We know that eagles can thrive in Kerry if given the chance but indiscriminate poisoning is literally killing our chances of re-establishing a population here" he added. The deaths of these two birds brings to 13 the total number of White-tailed Eagles found dead, seven of which have now been confirmed poisoned, all in Co. Kerry. Fifty-five birds have been released in Kerry since 2007. "The loss of the older male is particularly hard to take because we have now lost 7 of the 15 eagles released in 2007. Year by year we are losing most of the oldest birds that could be breeding in a few years. Many of the birds have been finding sources of fish in the rivers and lakes for the first time this year which is a really positive sign. Unfortunately even birds that are intent on fishing along our rivers don't escape the threat of poisoning. If there is a carcass laced with poison in fields nearby eventually one of the eagles will be drawn to it. We can't fully protect these birds unless we stop indiscriminate poisoning" Mee added.

Despite this threat many eagles have travelled the length and breadth of the country, including at least three birds that travelled to Scotland and back, without being harmed. "One male White-tailed Eagle travelled to the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland and back over an eight month period. Another satellite tracked eagles called Fiadhna (after 9 year old Fiadhna Tangney in the Black Valley) left Killarney after release in August 2009 and has now visited 28 of the 32 counties in Ireland" Mee commented. After spending the winter in the Antrim hills, Fiadhna moved west into Donegal then back east to the Sperrin Mountains, travelled on to the Cooley peninsula in Louth, before crossing west to the midlands. She then headed south to Kerry but then crossed into Clare and on to Connemara before heading east to Wicklow. In the last few weeks she returned to Northern Ireland and is now back in the Antrim Hills. "It is heartening to know that Fiadhna can cross the country and roost and feed on literally hundreds of farms in many counties without coming to any harm. To my mind this shows that the vast majority of farmers respect nature and do not use poisons. Just the other day we had a phone call from a farmer in Antrim who was happy to report that Fiadhna was back on the same farm she left months ago. The future for the reintroduction is cooperation and mutual respect between ourselves and the farming communities that eagles inhabit" Mee added.

Cooperation and support from the donor country, Norway, has been critical to the success of the White-tailed Eagle reintroduction in Kerry. However, the continuing loss of eagles to poisoning has cast a shadow over the future of this ambitious programme. The Directorate for Nature Management in Norway has supported the reintroduction programme to reestablish the White-tailed Eagle as a breeding bird in Ireland. Permits to collect up to 20 fledglings per year from Norway during 2007-2009 have been issued given that the population in Norway is a healthy and growing population, and based on the reports on Ireland still being a well suited area for the species. The Directorate of Nature Management is concerned to learn about the casualties caused by illegal poisoning. In Norway there is no evidence that White-tailed eagle predates on livestock.

The Directorate believes that the Irish authorities will take the necessary steps to correct this situation, and give the White-tailed eagle a future in Ireland.

Of three poisoned Red Kites found in the last month, a female found in Kildare had been released in Co. Down in 2008 as part of a reintroduction programme in Northern Ireland managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The RoI Reintroduction in Co. Wicklow is managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the Department of the Environment, Heritage, and Local Government. Although some Red Kites from Wicklow and Co. Down have crossed the border in past years, this is the first kite from Northern Ireland to be found poisoned in the Republic.

Robert Straughan, Red Kite Project Officer commented "The RSPB are seeking a coordinated approach between all relevant statutory and non-statutory organisations to tackling crimes against birds of prey in Northern Ireland. The death of one of our red kites in the Republic also highlights the need for us to co-ordinate our efforts cross-border. In NI, the new Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill will introduce tougher fines and custodial sentences for those committing crimes against wildlife, and we are also seeking an amendment to the Bill to make it an offence to possess certain pesticides. This would close a legal loophole which allows an individual to possess highly toxic chemicals for which they could have no legitimate use other than to commit an offence of poisoning animals or birds.

Political support has been demonstrated by MLAs, including Environment Minister Edwin Poots, who signed our pledge to stop illegal killing of birds of prey, which gathered over 200,000 signatures as part of RSPB's Birds of Prey campaign. The Ulster Farmers' Union have also demonstrated their support for our Red Kite project by including a red kite in their newly re-designed logo".

Two Red Kites were found also dead in Co. Wicklow in mid-March. One was found floating in the sea off Wicklow Head by members of the RNLI. A second bird was found by a member of the public on a road in west Wicklow. Initially both birds were thought to have died from natural causes but tests revealed toxic levels of Alphachloralose, a narcotic used to target crows and foxes. "All the evidence we have points to Alphachloralose being the number one poison of choice in use today and the most prevalent toxin threatening the viability of the Red Kite reintroduction in Wicklow", said Damian Clarke, Project Manager for the Golden Eagle Trust. "Despite the fact that it has been banned for some years in the UK we still continue to allow its production and use in Ireland. This is unsustainable and we have a duty to afford Kites from Northern Ireland the same protection as in the UK", Clarke 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 continue 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

Notes for Editors

The White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, and Red Kite Reintroduction Projects in the Republic of Ireland are managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the Republic of Ireland. The Golden Eagle Trust is a registered charity whose aim is to restore, enhance and maintain threatened and extinct native Irish bird species and their habitats through conservation Management, practical conservation research, education and public awareness.

The Red Kite Reintroduction Project in Northern Ireland is managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Red Kites is the first species reintroduction in Northern Ireland and part of an All-Ireland project to bring back these wonderful birds to our shores. Project partners are the Welsh Kite Trust, the Golden Eagle Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

The Golden Eagle Trust's Complaint to the European Commission re a Breach of Birds Directive

The GET submitted a formal complaint to the EU Commission, in December 2009, contending that the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries are in breach of the 1979 European Union Birds Directive. Primarily, the current legislation in Ireland permits Foxes to be poisoned, with meat baits, without adequate safeguards to prevent the inevitable poisoning of birds of prey (including Annex 1 species). This is in contravention of Articles 4 and 9 of the Birds Directive, because clear alternative and discriminate control measures are available.

Article 4 and Article 9 of the EU Birds Directive specifically require all EU Member States, including Ireland, to protect eagles and kites and other Annex 1 species. On the 13 December 2007, a judgement of the European Court of Justice found against the Irish Government for a range of failures to satisfactorily implement this directive into Irish law. The Government will face further, potentially costly, actions should it be found to fail on further counts or to not rectify previous failures. (see Case C-418/04 Commission of the European Communities v Ireland - available on www.curia.europa.eu).

The Golden Eagle Trust lodged a formal Complaint with the European Commission regarding the failure of the Irish Government to comply with the Birds Directive and the use of poisoning within Irish Agriculture contrary to the Cross Compliance measure within the Single Farm Payment Scheme. Please refer to other news stories on www.goldeneagle.ie

2 Single Farm Payment
The Single Payment Scheme has as one of its main measures, the implementation of cross compliance measures. Cross compliance involves a requirement for farmers to comply with a number of statutory management requirements (SMRs) set down in EU legislation. The Cross compliance conditions consist of respecting a number of Statutory Management Requirements and SMR 1 is the Conservation of Wild Birds as laid out in the 1979 EU Birds Directive.

Article 4 of the Birds Directive States;
1. The species mentioned in Annex I shall be the subject of special conservation measures concerning their habitat in order to ensure their survival and reproduction in their area of distribution.

In this connection, account shall be taken of:

(a) species in danger of extinction;
(b) species vulnerable to specific changes in their habitat;
(c) species considered rare because of small populations or restricted local distribution;
(d) other species requiring particular attention for reasons of the specific nature of their habitat.

Trends and variations in population levels shall be taken into account as a background for evaluations.

Member States shall classify in particular the most suitable territories in number and size as special protection areas for the conservation of these species, taking into account their protection requirements in the geographical sea and land area where this Directive applies.

White-tailed Eagles, Red Kites and Golden Eagles are an Annexe 1 Species and therefore people in receipt of Single Farm Payments, who are found to have killed an Eagle or Red Kite, should face Cross Compliance Sanctions and the payment reduced accordingly.

Contact

Allan Mee
Golden Eagle Trust.
Direen, Black Valley,
Beaufort, Killarney,
Co. Kerry
Tel: 087-3117608

James Robinson
Director

RSPB Northern Ireland
Tel: +44-4890-491547

Damian Clarke
Golden Eagle Trust
No. 3 Glenkeen Court,
Redcross,
Co. Wicklow.
Telephone: 086 3284463

DOWNLOADS
The poisoning locations have been plotted on a map and can be downloaded in a number of formats. JPG image files are far smaller than PDF files and suitable for screen viewing. The PDF files are much larger but offer superior print out quality.

Dead Golden Eagles 1
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Tue2nd Mar 2010

Poison kills Golden Eagle "Conall"

A healthy young Irish Golden Eagle has been found poisoned on the Sligo/Leitrim border at Truskmore Mountain. The 10 month old eagle chick was born and reared in a Donegal eyrie in 2009. The bird had spent the last four months wandering the beautiful mountains above Glencar Waterfall, Lough Gill and Gleniff.

The bird was tracked and found using a Global Positioning System satellite transmitter fitted on its back. The corpse, recovered on the 18th February 2010, was just inside the County Leitrim border. A post mortem carried out by the Regional Veterinary Laboratory in Rathcormack, Sligo revealed that the young male was in excellent condition prior to its death. Toxicology analysis, carried out at the Ashtown Food Research Centre, Dublin 15 prove that the eagle was poisoned by Nitroxynil poured over the fleece of a dead newborn or aborted lamb. Nitroxynil is found in Throdax, which is a veterinary medicine used to treat liver fluke in livestock. New born lambs are not treated for liver fluke. Initial surveillance suggests that no local farmer has any new born lambs outdoors at present. Gardaí in Sligo Town have begun their investigation.

This male eagle was named Conall after "Tír Conall" - the Irish name for Donegal. Local people and children in Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim had been watching and following its regular movements on the project website (www.goldeneagle.ie).

Prior to the 2009 lambing season another satellite tagged Golden Eagle was found poisoned with Paraquat on the 19th February 2009 in West Donegal. The loss of up to 10% of Irish Golden Eagle population within a year suggests that the Golden Eagle Project could fail, unless the unlawful use of toxins by a small percentage of farmers ceases. In total, nine White tailed Eagles, Golden Eagles and Kites have been confirmed poisoned in Ireland over the last two and a half years. Recent monitoring by the Golden Eagle Trust proves that poisons, such as Alphachloralose, Carbofuran, Paraquat and Nitroxynil, have been used illegally in Munster, Ulster, Leinster and now Connaught.

The Golden Eagle Trust believes that over 95% of landowners across Ireland do not use poison. It is also clear, from the 11,000 comments, on the Golden Eagle Trust?s anti-poisoning petition (see www.goldeneagle.ie), that the illegal use of poisons is condemned across both rural and urban Ireland.

Despite previous banner headlines and widespread public revulsion at previous poisoning incidents there has had no discernible impact on the arrogant and selfish poisoners who continue to break the law. The Golden Eagle Trust has come to realise that only peer-group pressure from within the farming sector will dissuade poisoners from carrying on this needless and indiscriminate method of controlling foxes and crows. The Golden Eagle Trust lodged a formal complaint with the European Union in late 2009 concerning the failure of the Irish Government to implement legislation protecting Ireland's rare scavenging birds of prey.

We believe that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food need to state unequivocally that the poisoning of any Annexe I bird of prey (such as eagles and kites) is a breach of the Cross Compliance measures, which are a pre-condition of the Single Farm Payments they distribute. Could the Department consider adopting a protocol, whereby immediate farm inspections of all flock owners take place within a radius of 5km of any proven poisoning incident ?

The Irish Agri-food sector, which employs 160,000 people in Ireland, now needs to grapple with the glaring contradiction which exists, between the highly lauded promotion of Irish food as quality produce and the emerging evidence of the ongoing highly damaging illegal use of toxins among some non compliant farm food producers. Do Bord Bia believe that the increasing stain of poisoning within Ireland's farm food systems is beneficial to the promotion of 'natural and green Irish farm foods' abroad?

Unlike the more prosperous farmers in parts of Leinster and Munster, farmers on the western seaboard are more heavily involved in the wider rural economy in order to bolster their meagre annual income. The consequences of using poison on meat will create an uncomfortable impression on potential tourists wishing to visit a relaxing and natural area of such scenic beauty as Leitrim and Sligo and thereby curtail the potential for the off farm income of local farm families.

We are genuinely despondent that 10 years of active awareness measures, liaison with farmers and schoolchildren and the production of a poisoning advice leaflet for farmers, agreed with the main farming representative bodies, has been effectively destroyed by a recent edition of the Irish Farmers Journal. The Sheep Section, within the Irish Farmers Journal, advised sheep farmers that "Alphachloralose placed in a dead lamb or the afterbirth can help trap foxes." [Farmers Journal, 6th February 2010, see here]. This appalling advice on the unlawful use of fallen poisoned livestock, is indicative of a glaring disregard for regulations within a small sector of the Agricultural community and more crucially within the main weekly voice of Irish farming.

Lorcán O Toole from the Golden Eagle Trust said, "This issue is about the illegal use of poison within Irish farming. We believe the few hundred farmers using poison illegally are at variance with the huge environmental advances Irish farming has undergone over the last ten years. We have always fully acknowledged the support and co-operation of the sheep farming community in the Northwest and continue to do so. But unfortunately the poisoning this Golden Eagle, undermines the image of Irish food and weakens the potential for local tourism and damages the fragile rural economy in the Northwest, we believe."

"Increasingly, farmers in Ireland will look for support from the ordinary Irish consumer to support their efforts for more sustainable prices for farm produce and in maintaining the crucial farming presence in rural Ireland after pending reforms to the EU?s Common Agricultural Policy. Farmers need to question whether the actions of a tiny minority could undermine that consumer support."

O' Toole added, "Farmers in Donegal bear witness to the fact that eagles can readily co-exist with sheep farming. We believe that ordinary people across Ireland expect Irish Agriculture to co-exist with Nature. Is our green nation so timid, so tame and so weak that we cannot tolerate several pairs of Wild Golden Eagles ? If Golden Eagles become extinct in Ireland for the second time in little over a century, then this small charity can only but apologise for imagining that free flying Eagles, in this new Millennium, would encounter a society that broadly re-embraced the ancient Gaelic respect for Wild Creatures."

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Thu28th Jan 2010

In 2009, 1 Golden Eagle, 1 White-tailed Eagle and 1 Red Kite were found poisoned, with three different toxins in 3 separate provinces during the springtime. There was widespread public dismay and national, and some international, media concern regarding these incidents. The Scottish Authorities called for a detailed review of the Golden Eagle donor stock licence for the Donegal project as a direct result of the confirmed poisoning near Glenveagh National Park. The Irish Government repeatedly promised at the time, that a legislative change would be introduced all but banning the use of poisoned meat baits, outside exceptional licensed exemptions. This small legislative compromise, still allowing for the use of non-meat baits according to the existing poisoning regulations, has still not been introduced.

Now almost twelve months later and nothing has changed since last year. The White-tailed Eagle Steering Group in Kerry has produced a leaflet, with the support of the Irish Farmers Association, Teagasc, the Department of Agriculture and local Gun Clubs asking people to improve aspects of livestock and game protection, to avoid the use of poison meat baits, and only use alternative poison baits or control methods as a last resort.

The Golden Eagle Trust (GET) manages the Golden Eagle Reintroduction Programme in Donegal, the White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction Programme in Kerry, and the Red Kite Reintroduction Programme in Wicklow, in partnership with the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The GET has lobbied for more than 10 years for simple changes to the Irish poisoning legislation and though some alterations have been made, people are still allowed to use meat baits under certain conditions.

However, even these few simple conditions are not being adhered to and the use of poison continues with dire consequences for wildlife, farm dogs, pets, and potentially human health. The GET submitted a formal complaint to the EU Commission, in December 2009, contending that the Irish Government are in breach of the 1979 European Union Birds Directive. Primarily, the current legislation in Ireland permits Foxes to be poisoned with meat baits (and crows and Magpies with non-meat baits), without adequate safeguards to prevent the inevitable poisoning of birds of prey (including Annex 1 species). This is in contravention of Articles 4 and 9 of the Birds Directive, because clear alternative and discriminate control measures are available. 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).

In April 2009, the GET set up an online Anti-Poisoning petition on its website, www.goldeneagle.ie . In June, Dublin Zoo put out a hard copy of the petition in their visitor area. The petition has now closed and over 11,000 people have formally signed and requested the Irish Government to ban the use of poison meat baits. Over 7,619 people signed the online petition and 3,424 people signed a hardcopy of the petition in Dublin Zoo. People from over 60 countries have signed this petition, with special support for the change also coming from people in Britain, Germany, USA and France. So this issue is much greater than a mere national problem - people internationally are aware of our shortcomings in this area. The comments of those signatories are noteworthy and the general abhorrence of poison, as a form of control of large mammals and birds, is clear.

Lorcán O' Toole of the Golden Eagle Trust, said, "We have been writing to different individuals, at different levels within the relevant Government Departments for over 10 years now, requesting simple legislative changes that will not discommode any person using poison in a responsible manner. But despite continued promises and genuine aspirations within the Statutory Authorities it appears as if some unidentified issue or bureaucratic problem is stymieing the push for legislative change. Reluctantly, we feel obliged to protect the public funding in these national restoration projects by making this formal European Complaint, which is geared at bringing this underlining tension to a head and getting these changes adopted, either through regulations or legislation, and past whatever internal Departmental blockages that there are."

O Toole added, "It is very clear from the comments on our website petition that people are fed up with the lazy and reckless use of indiscriminate poison. It is also clear from these same comments, and the GET would like to endorse these views, that the vast majority of people in rural Ireland and within the farming sector are fed up with the illegal use of poison and the negativity it produces. We believe that very simple changes in legislation and in Departmental advice and practice could satisfy the points raised in the European Complaint and thereby bring clarity to a rather complex issue."

More Info
download the eu_complaint_nov_2009.zip document (4.39 MB)
download the poisoning brochure page 1 document (.3 MB)
download the poisoning brochure page 2 document (.8 MB)
download the poisoning brochure as a single image file document (1.5 MB)

Dead WT Eagles 1
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Fri17th Apr 2009

Efforts to restore Ireland's lost birds of prey have suffered more losses due to poisoning. Results from toxicology tests carried out at the State Laboratory in Cellbridge, Co. Kildare and at the SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture) Laboratory in Edinburgh, Scotland have confirmed that a White-tailed Eagle, recovered dead, on 12th March, near the shore of Lough Lein, Killarney was poisoned with Carbofuran and a Red Kite found dead near Tiglin, County Wicklow, on the 16th March, was also confirmed to have been poisoned with Alphachloralose. These two deaths follow closely on the recent finding of a Golden Eagle, poisoned by Paraquat, in Co. Donegal on 19th February 2009. The fact that three separate poisons were used to kill three different species, found in three different counties, shows the full extent of the threat that poisons pose to Irish birds of prey. Clearly the unlawful use of poisoned meat baits is, unfortunately, still a countrywide practice.

The poisoned bird in Kerry is the fifth White-tailed Eagle, from the batch of 15 birds released in Killarney National Park in August 2007, to have been poisoned. The White-tailed Eagle that was killed was well traveled and was regarded as a flagship bird of the project. In September 2007, it visited the Blasket Islands and the Skelligs after its release and thrilled boatmen and tourists alike. Although it spent its first winter in Kerry, it spent last summer around Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland, before returning to Killarney in September 2008. Despite surviving all these travels, across numerous counties and over scores of Irish farms, it met its fate just a short distance from where it was released. It had apparently ingested part of a sheep carcass laced with poison.

The Golden Eagle poisoned in Donegal had eaten meat bait laced with Paraquat. Paraquat is a lethal weed killer, with no known antidote, and unfortunately has killed several people in the past. It is totally unacceptable that a substance, known to be poisonous to humans, should be left out in grazing areas and fields containing sheep and other animals. Scottish Natural Heritage, the statutory conservation authority of the Scottish Government, has called a full review of the Irish Golden Eagle reintroduction project export licence, which allows donor stock to be collected in Scotland, in light of this recent poisoning incident.

The Golden Eagle Trust and BirdWatch Ireland are calling for an urgent review of the laws governing the supply, storage, use and mis-use of poisons and the enforcement of these laws and regulations. Recent changes in legislation by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, in January 2008, prohibits the use of meat baits in the control of birds. But the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1965 still allows, in certain restricted circumstances, the use of poison on meat baits to control foxes.

This legislation has been now been proven to be clearly in breach of Article 4 and Article 9 of the EU Birds Directive, which specifically protects Annex I species such as eagles and kites. The Golden Eagle Trust will be lodging an official complaint with the EU Commission in this regard within the coming weeks. Sadly, even the limited legislation that is currently in place controlling the use of poisons is itself not being enforced. Regulations governing the use of poison clearly state that people using poison must erect poisoning signs and notify the local Garda Siochana Station in writing - this is simply being ignored. Several of the dead birds ate poisoned dead livestock even though it is illegal to knowingly leave dead livestock above ground under separate Animal By-products regulations.

There are 160,000 jobs in the Irish Agri-food sector, which benefit from the 'clean green' image which our country and food industry has. If this sector is to consolidate its share of an increasingly competitive international consumer market then it must continue to adhere to the highest farming standards. Under the Single Farm Payment Scheme there is a requirement for farmers to comply with a number of Statutory Management Requirements set down in EU Directives and Regulations, including the Birds Directive, which affords rare Annex I species (including Eagles and Kites) special protection. The Single Payment Scheme in Ireland is fully funded by the EU and European taxpayers. The illegal use of poison on a small number of Irish farms is not compatible with the obligations those in receipt of the Single Farm Payment have or with the promotion of Ireland's clean food image.

The Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) is one of the main expenditure items of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Budget, and it is estimated it will cost several hundred million Euros in 2009. The Golden Eagle Trust has made two previous submissions, under periodic REPS reviews, stating that poisoning with meat baits be banned on farms in receipt of payments specifically designed to protect the Irish Environment. We would appeal to the Department of Agriculture, once again, to consider this as a matter of urgency. Is it acceptable that a small number of landowners in receipt of payments under the Rural Environment Protection Scheme and Single Farm Payment continue to use poisons that kill protected and rare birds?

The economies and employment in Kerry, Donegal and Wicklow are each heavily dependent on tourism and each county rightly promotes the beauty of their respective landscapes. Golden Eagles, White-tailed Eagles and Red Kites are increasingly being used to highlight each county's wild landscapes in essential tourism promotional packages. It is known for example, that the Eagles on Scotland's Isle of Mull alone, contribute 3 million euro per annum to this small island economy. Each Irish county has the potential to replicate these specific eco-tourism incomes locally. But each county's wider promotional activities will be undermined to some degree if these projects fail due to poisoning. The deaths of these birds by poisoning are being widely publicized abroad, especially in the donor countries (Norway, Scotland, Wales) where legislation banning the use of such poisons has been in place for several decades.

Project Manager, Allan Mee of the Golden Eagle Trust said, "The sad thing is that none of this needs to happen. Landowners and eagles should be able to coexist in Kerry just as they do in Norway where White-tailed Eagles nest next to farms. Something has to be done about the poisoning situation or more eagles with die. It's a national disgrace that we continue to mindlessly wipe out wildlife by using poisons in this day and age."

Alan Lauder, BirdWatch Ireland's Head of Conservation said, "These poisonings sadden us. The efforts of the Golden Eagle Trust, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and other project partners, volunteers and stakeholders who wish to see the projects succeed are being let down by the actions of some irresponsible individuals. Most landowners would choose safer, more targeted and legitimate methods of pest control than opt to use indiscriminate and potentially harmful poison baits."

Alan continued, "These poisonings highlight the failure of the domestic legislation to adequately protect our wild birds and also show how the irresponsible actions of a few individuals affect not only the lives of majestic birds of prey but the livelihoods of local people in communities that depend on wildlife to attract visitors. If these poisonings persist they will continue to blight the country's reputation and potentially scupper attempts to restore some precious parts of Ireland's heritage."

The Golden Eagle Trust, the charity managing all three projects in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, believes the current "light regulation" of poisoning in Ireland is simply killing too many Eagles and Kites. Poisoning has now been proven to be a real threat to the national effort, funded by Irish tax payer's money, to restore our native Irish Eagles and Kites. Birds of prey can co-exist with modern farming practices, as happens elsewhere across Europe. The GET would like to highlight the enormous support the reintroduction projects receive from the large majority of landowners, farmers, gun clubs, schools, hill walkers, tourism interests and many others, but must stress that reckless poisoning is an outdated and selfish habit of a very small minority of individuals.

For further information contact:

  • Allan Mee
    White-tailed Eagle Project Manager,
    Golden Eagle Trust, Direen, Black Valley,
    Beaufort, Co. Kerry
    Tel: 087-3117608
    E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

  • Damian Clarke
    Red Kite Project Manager,
    Golden Eagle Trust, Wicklow Mountains National Park,
    Laragh, Co. Wicklow.
    Tel 086 3284463
    E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

  • Alan Lauder
    Head of Conservation,
    Birdwatch Ireland, Crank House,
    Banagher, Co Offaly
    Tel: 057 915 1676
    E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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