Sea eagle death in Kerry park brings total to 13

Tue, May 4, 2010, 01:00

ANOTHER WHITE-TAILED sea eagle has been found poisoned in sheep-farming country in Kerry, bringing to 13 the number of birds lost since their release into the Killarney National Park three years ago.

Kites, falcons, eagles – golden and white-tailed – buzzards and other birds of prey reintroduced into Ireland have been lost in what the various bodies involved described in a joint statement yesterday as “a spate of poisoning”.

The latest bird found is the second male sea eagle in weeks to have been poisoned in the river Laune and Beaufort area near Killarney in the foothills of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, an area which eagles frequent in search of fish.

Both were poisoned by Carbofuran, a banned pesticide commonly used by farmers on dead carcasses to poison foxes and crows during the lambing season, laboratory tests revealed. They were about three years old.

Since their reintroduction, seven white-tailed sea eagles have been confirmed poisoned in Kerry, two are suspected of having been poisoned, one was shot and two others died from natural causes. A 13th eagle was shot in the North.

Just shy of a quarter of the eagles have now been wiped out.

Twenty more are due to be brought in from Norway this year as part of the five-year programme. The scientist in charge of the sea eagle project, Dr Allan Mee, said yesterday the continuing loss of eagles to poisoning had cast a shadow over the future of the ambitious programme.

There was huge support for the project among the public and it was strongly supported by tourism bodies. The problem rested with individual sheep farmers, according to Dr Mee, most of whom had now come around to the idea.

“The loss of a further two white-tailed eagles at this time is devastating . . . 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.”

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. Two red kites and a peregrine were found dead in Wicklow, a third red kite released in Northern Ireland was found dead in Kildare, a golden eagle in Leitrim and buzzards in west Waterford, east Cork and Donegal (one of which recovered from poisoning). They were all poisoned by ingesting meat baits laced with Alphachloralose.

The Golden Eagle Trust is calling on the Department of Agriculture to initiate immediate farm inspections where poisonings occurred. The trust said the department had failed to ensure that farmers in receipt of direct payments from the EU for rural environmental protection and other schemes observe the law on the protection of birds of prey.