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Ireland's Curlew population is 'on brink of extinction', warn conservationists

The current Curlew population stands at just 138 pairs.

Image: Shutterstock/Andrew M. Allport

IRISH CURLEW SITES need to be protected from developments such as peat extraction, afforestation and intensification in order to protect the bird species “on the brink of extinction”, conservationists have warned. 

The Curlew Task Force published their recommendations today, calling for further research and the development of a species action plan aimed at rescuing the bird.

The task force was set up in 2017 to address the significant decline in the native breeding population of the Curlew -  a 96% loss since the late 1980s.

The current Curlew breeding population stands at just 138 pairs. 

Independent Chair of the task force, Alan Lauder said the Curlew population is in danger of disappearing in just 10 years.

“Considering we had some many thousands back, maybe 20 years ago, we would have been considered one of the strongholds for Curlew in Europe at that time. Now we’re very much on the brink of extinction – without action we could see single figures in ten years,” Lauder told Morning Ireland. 

BirdWatch Ireland welcomed today’s recommendations but warned that without a significant increase in spending on protection measures for the Curlew, the species will remain at serious risk of extinction in Ireland.

“Ireland is only the second country in the world to have declared a climate and biodiversity emergency, but due to the species’ rapid and widespread decline, we are also in danger of becoming the first EU country to lose the Curlew to extinction,” Dr Anita Donaghy, assistant head of conservation with BirdWatch Ireland, said. 

In the interim, there has been some positive action from the Government, and this is welcome; however, significantly more funding is required if we are to have any hope of saving this iconic species from extinction.

Donaghy added that recognition must be given to the importance of protecting areas with nesting Curlews from afforestation and other damaging land-use changes, “as well as supporting farmers who maintain high nature value farmland, such as the places where Curlews breed”. 

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shutterstock_1407728729 Source: Shutterstock/Coatesy

Commenting on the task force’s recommendations the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan said some of the recommendations “are well advanced, while others will require further discussion and consideration across Government”.

“These recommendations provide a blueprint for future policy in relation to the Curlew in Ireland,” Madigan said. 

The Department’s National Parks and Wildlife Service is now calling on the public to help with the Curlew conservation programme. 

While at present we have Curlew visiting our shores to spend the autumn and winter with us, the National Parks & Wildlife Service are asking for the public to let them know about any Curlew sightings they may have had over the summer months, especially in May, June and July.

“Knowing where Curlew breed allows the NPWS to work with landowners to help Curlew rear their young and it is hoped that more pairs can be found in 2020,” Dr Barry O’Donoghue of the NPWS, who leads the conservation programme, said. 

The public can contact the NPWS by emailing Agri.Ecology@chg.gov.ie and or on 076-100-2611. 

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Adam Daly

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