Plea for careful use of rat poisons after deaths of red kites

Fri, Jan 20, 2012, 00:00

BIRDWATCH IRELAND is calling for the responsible use of poisons following a series of red kite deaths in Fingal, Co Dublin, last year. The call comes after eight of the 39 red kites released in Fingal were found dead in the latter half of 2011.

In 2010, red kites were born wild in Ireland for the first time in 200 years following the success of the Irish Red Kite Reintroduction Project.

Between 2007 and 2011, the Golden Eagle Trust, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Welsh Kite Trust brought 120 chicks to Co Wicklow, where breeding pairs soon established.

In 2011 a decision was made to expand the project to a second site in Fingal, where 39 red kites were released with the assistance of Fingal Leader Partnership, Fingal County Council and local volunteers.

Dr Marc Ruddock, red kite project manager for the Golden Eagle Trust, has described the discovery of the dead kites as heartbreaking.

Analysis of the carcases by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture showed that at least four of the kites contained the second-generation rat poison brodifacoum.

Dietary analysis of kites in Ireland has shown that they hunt and scavenge for rats, which puts them at risk from secondary poisoning from rodenticides.

“We recognise the requirement for rodent control in terms of human health and food safety, but urge amateur and professional users alike to ensure that rodent control is carefully planned to reduce the risk to non-target wildlife,” Dr Ruddock said.

According to John Lusby, the raptor conservation officer with BirdWatch Ireland, the deaths “highlight an area of serious concern, and recent research has also shown that other species such as barn owls, kestrels and long-eared owls are at significant risk”.

Mr Lusby suggested “amending current regulations in Ireland and increasing awareness of best practice rodent control”.

In addition to the threat posed to red kites and other wildlife through the legal use of rat poisons, two other red kites were confirmed to have been illegally poisoned by alphachloralose in Wicklow last autumn.