Mullingar bog tract saved for dragonfly

 

The future of a number of endangered insect species, including a rare dragonfly, has been secured with the purchase of a small tract of bog near Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

Scragh bog, close to the well known landmark for travellers to the north-west, The Fox's Covert, has been purchased by the Irish Peatland Conservation Council (IPCC).

The bog, which covers only 16 hectares, about 40 acres, has already become an open air laboratory for scientists from all over the world because of its unique insect life. Of particular interest is the local dragonfly (coenagrimon lumulatum), which is found on only two bog sites in Ireland, and the large wolf spider, which is now almost extinct elsewhere in Europe. The little bog is also the home of a unique horsefly and a snail-killing fly, tetanocera.

Dr Peter Foss, chairman of the IPCC, says the bog has been purchased under a scheme offering the public a symbolic share in an area of threatened peatland. Every pound donated by the public is matched by £4 from the EU.

"The bog itself is unique in so far as it is a fine example of `raised' bog, not the normal blanket peatlands which cover a lot of the country," he said.

"We have 19,000 hectares of raised bog in Ireland and that is 50 per cent of the remaining raised bogland in the world." "People go on about the rain forests and their importance, but the truth is that there is a lot more rain forest than there is raised bogland, and we should be steadfast in our attempts to keep it," he said.

There was a national commitment to save 10,000 hectares of the raised bog, but this target was not being met, he said. Only 8,500 hectares were protected so far.

"The most common bog we have, blanket bog, which you see in Connemara and the Wicklow mountains, is under less threat but under threat nevertheless," he added. The national commitment was to protect 40,000 hectares of it, but to date only 33,000 hectares, mainly in national parks, has been protected.

Meanwhile, he said, the IPCC would continue to raise funds to buy more tracts of raised bog like Scragh. Since the Scragh purchase, Cummeragh River Bog, a raised bog in Co Kerry, has been purchased and is now fully protected. Bealacooan Bog in Connemara has also been bought with money raised under the share certificate system, with much of the funding coming from Dutch people.