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CONSERVATION NEWS

CONSERVATION

NEWS

KICKING THE HORNET’S NEST

Dr Debbi Pedreschi keeps us up-to-date on conservation news from Ireland and around the world. IRISH NEWS

Asian hornet. Photo: Didier Descouens.

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WHITE-TAILED EAGLE

POISONED A six-year-old female white-tailed sea eagle was discovered dead at her nesting site in Connemara on April 1st last. The carcass was recovered by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) for post-mortem, which revealed the bird had been poisoned. The eagle had been released in the Killarney National Park in 2009 as part of the Golden Eagle Trust reintroduction programme with NPWS. White-tailed eagle. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan. The female had successfully paired with a male, and was on the verge of laying eggs, which would have been a major boon to conservation efforts. White-tailed sea eagles only reach maturity at around five years of age. Seven pairs laid eggs last year, but only the Mountshannon (Co Clare) pair have successfully fledged chicks to date. Unbelievably, this is the 13th confirmed poisoning of white-tailed sea eagles in Ireland since the project began in 2007. Despite a ban on laying out poison for foxes and crows since 2010, it continues to be a major threat to efforts. To-date, there have been no prosecutions. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagle Trust has put together guidelines for the general public to avoid disturbing nesting sites. The nesting season runs from February to August during which time disturbance can result in nest abandonment. Kayakers, canoeists and other waterway users are urged to maintain a distance of 200m from nest sites and perched eagles, and not to attempt to photograph nests as a license is required for this. Finally, if you do happen upon a nest, please keep the site confidential to help protect these majestic birds.

Hot on the heels of the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s most recent bee identification workshop come reports of an influx of ‘huge killer hornets’ towards Britain due to recent warm weather. These Asian hornets, native to China, are nearly 8cm long, carry a powerful sting, and have caused anaphylactic shock leading to the death of six people in France since their arrival in 2004. Furthermore, these hornets also present a major threat to already vulnerable honey bees upon which they predate. There have not yet been any confirmed sightings within the UK, but a fast response eradication plan has been put in place by the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs in response to fears of an introduction through the movement of caravans and campers during the summer. The Irish Beekeepers’ Association are in talks with the Department of Agriculture about Irish options. Invasive Species Ireland also has an alert out for this species in Ireland as a potential high threat invader. As media coverage increases with scary headlines, wildlife experts are poised for an influx of panicked phone calls relating to mistaken identity, such as the harmless native giant wood wasp.

IRISH RESEARCH PROTECTING INTERNATIONAL WHALES The International Whaling Commission Expert Panel recently reviewed an application by Japan to continue conducting lethal research on whale populations. One element of their so-called ‘research’ involved carrying out a feasibility study ‘to determine whether stable isotope ratios (δ13C and δ15N) may provide information...’ on ‘...populations’ migratory, feeding and reproduction habits with a view to a return to commercial whaling’. Employing stable isotopes as a technique for cetaceans has however already been successfully carried out by Dr. Conor Ryan of IWDG and GMIT and was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Marine Ecology Progress Series back in 2013. Dr. Ryan and his colleagues successfully employed this technique using baleen from stranded and archived fin, humpback and minke whales, without killing any whales, to investigate diet, migratory patterns and ecological niches.

Irish Wildlife Summer ‘15

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Irish Wildlife Trust  
Irish Wildlife Trust  

Summer 2015