Social media can be an incredibly depressing platform when it comes to issues related to the environment. The many stories of the horrors inflicted on the natural world can be hard to stomach. As such, I tend to limit my viewing of such material to retain some hope However, when these horrors occur in your own backyard they are difficult to overlook. The confirmation recently of the fatal poisoning of a Hen Harrier named ‘Mary’ in Dromconrath, Co Meath was hard to ignore and even harder to think that a tweet or post on any social media platform would be enough to draw attention to it. Mary formed part of a wider EU Hen Harrier LIFE project, involving Birdwatch Ireland, Manx BirdLife and the RSPB, our UK BirdLife International partner. She had a tracking device attached to her before she took flight from her nest on the Isle of Man. The tracker was used to monitor her movements and survival, the latter of which allowed the team to locate her final resting place. When the Meath branch of Birdwatch Ireland was informed about the news and circumstances of Marys death, all members, including me, were shocked and disappointed that such an incident would happen in Meath. However, we were far more alarmed and concerned that a banned poison Carbafaun was used. This banned insecticide is so toxic it is lethal to both animals and humans too. The official statement by Birdwatch Ireland on the poisoning highlighted that such practices are more widespread and noted that a high rate of similar birds of prey tracked by the project could be affected. ‘We are appalled, but sadly not surprised, as this is far from an isolated incident. The fact is that, of the small number of birds of prey that have been fitted with tracking devices in Ireland or which have travelled here, a high proportion has been found in similar circumstances to Mary. With such high rates of fatalities among birds being tracked one can only assume the rate is higher still among those not being tracked. Reported incidents in Drom and Corcullen, Co.Galway and Bundoran, Co Donegal only highlight how widespread this problem is. In September last year, 5 dogs were fatally poisoned in the area of Drom and Corcullen whilst a few months later in Bundoran another 5 dogs were killed having consumed poisoned bait. Thankfully no reports of such poisonings have occurred with humans. But it is clear our environment is littered with these dangerous toxins and it is only a matter of time before such an incident happens. Our environment is the community we live in, the family and friends we form and from that the interaction we have in our daily lives with the wildlife that live with us. If we think of such an environment in this sense, it is hard to excuse the reckless behaviour of those who poison it endangering lives and nature at the same time.
Marys death should sound as a warning to what measures some people will take to kill these birds and make us consider what future our environment has if such individuals are not stopped. The escalation by those intent on killing off such birds of prey is a high priority concern for Birdwatch Ireland Meath in the interests of protecting the birds but more especially in the interests of public safety.
- Paul Gallagher
In light of Mary’s fatal poisoning, Birdwatch Ireland Meath have decided to make 2020 The year of the Raptor.