Two walkers rescued after getting lost in Kerry rhododendron

Rescue 115 helicopter used thermal imaging to locate the two men in Killarney forest

Conservation ranger Peter O’Toole, who is accompanied everywhere by his Bedlington terrier Oscar, has been trying to control rhododendron in Killarney National Park for 15 years. Given the chance, it would happily swallow Ireland’s ancient woodlands.


Two walkers have been rescued after becoming disorientated in dense rhododendron in the Killarney National Park on Thursday afternoon.

Three rescue teams including the Shannon based Sikorsky rescue helicopter, the Kerry Mountain Rescue and the Killarney Water Rescue were deployed to locate the visitors who had camped overnight in the rhododendron forest alongside Killarney’s largest lake.

Around one third of the national park is now covered and the rhododendron is jungle-like along the western shore of Lough Leane lake where this afternoon’s rescue effort took place.

Valentia Coastguard Radio Station was asked to co-ordinate the operation and call in Rescue 115 from Shannon in Co Limerick after local rescue teams who set out from a number of locations found it impossible to locate them in the dense growth.

The two, both male and from continental Europe, had camped near Glena Cottage overnight around 400 metres into the shelter of the dense rhododendron.

However on Thursday morning the campers became disorientated and did not know where they were and could not make their way out of the dark uniform forest.

Mobile phone signal

They managed to get a mobile phone signal and contacted Kerry Mountain Rescue at around 2 pm.

Teams set out from Tomies to the north and from the southern side but could not pinpoint them.

Rescue 115 used thermal imaging to locate the men, according to Valentia.

The helicopter crew could not get a winch down to them because of the dense overhang of the rhododendron in the area. Instead they were walked to the lake shore where a local boatman was summoned to pick them up.

It is not the first time walkers have become lost in rhododendron in Killarney. Last year Kerry Mountain Rescue managed to pluck a walker off nearby Shehy Mountain.

Rhododendron ponticum is a major problem now in the national park in Killarney and €200,000 was spent by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in Killarney in trying to contain its spread.

Around one third of the 25,000 acre park is covered with the attractive purple flowered rhododendron a native of the Black Sea introduced in the nineteenth century.

And despite a 30 year battle to save the park, the situation is worse than ever, conservationists feel.

Teagasc released figures on Thursday stating the annual cost to Ireland of invasive and non-native species is estimated at €261 million.