The re-introduction of Golden eagle into the Repub.. (Golden eagle)
The re-introduction of Golden eagle into the Republic of Ireland
Date du début: 1 avr. 2001,
Date de fin: 31 mars 2006
The European population of the golden eagle, Aquila chrysaetos, is estimated to be around 5,077 pairs. Its range has been drastically reduced over the past century as a result of persecution, destruction of breeding sites and pollution. Breeding areas are now restricted to remote mountain areas in Sweden, Finland, Scotland and parts of southern Europe. Nesting densities in central Europe are often lower than one pair per 100 kmÂ², which makes golden eagle conservation that much more complex.
The Irish population of golden eagle became extinct in 1912. One of its last remaining strongholds was on the extreme north-west coast of Ireland in County Donegal, where the landscape essentially consists of uplands and mountains dominated by blanket bogs. In its heyday, this area used to hold up to 12 golden eagle home ranges.
As there is little chance of natural recolonisation from Scotland, the LIFE-Nature project intended to start a re-introduction programme for the golden eagle in the Glenveagh National Park in Donegal. The conditions in this park were considered ideal for the species as there are adequate live prey densities, suitable nesting crags, high numbers of raven and buzzards and a legal protection mechanism through its designation as a Special Protection Area (SPA).
Having devised a programme that meets all of the World Conservation Unionâs (IUCN) 53 re-introduction guidelines, the beneficiary would release 60-75 golden eagles over the six years the LIFE project was to last. Each bird would be carefully prepared for release and closely monitored afterwards. Supplementary food dumps would be provided for the first winter as appropriate. It was hoped that the first breeding attempts would begin by the end of the project and that, in the long term, Ireland would be able to host 50-100 pairs.
The other main axis of the project was to raise awareness and interest for the species both locally and nationally, in order to help foster a positive attitude towards the golden eagle's return and a sense of pride at having part of Ireland's natural heritage restored. To this end, close liaisons would be forged with local farmers, tourist interests, the general public and the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking community).
Forty-two golden eagles were released over the project lifetime, compared with an expected 60-75. Although this was less than hoped for, it has been compensated for by a much higher than expected survival rate: with for example, only three birds out of 35 released in 2001-2004 being confirmed dead. The latest evidence of the success of the project was the birth in spring 2007 of a golden eagle, the first born in Ireland for nearly 100 years.
The project's other main achievement was in raising awareness and interest for the species both locally and nationally, in order to help foster a positive attitude towards the golden eagle's return and a sense of pride at having part of Ireland's natural heritage restored. This was achieved with a wide reaching and very effective dissemination programme. Numerous newspaper, magazine, radio and TV (Irish and UK) articles featured the project. The project manager visited many schools and local groups to talk about the project and its aims. The results of this work were evident in transforming initial hesitancy or resistance in some quarters to support for the eagles. Thanks to this work, many people all across Ireland are aware of the project's work and are impressed by it. Moreover there is genuine and widespread interest and support for the past cultural associations of eagles in Ireland. Old Gaelic place names, songs, poems, family crests and folklore with eagle connotations were highlighted and appeared to have attracted much interest.
The projectâs practical work has continued with further collections of chicks from Scotland and continued lobbying for an amendment to the poisoning legislation in Ireland.
In terms of demonstration value, both biometrics and DNA analysis was used to sex the birds. The tallying of these results meant that the project was able to demonstrate that biometrics was a reliable test.
Finally, various small innovations were made to increase the chances of success for the birds. For example, a greater emphasis than usual was placed on post-release feeding to maximise first year survival rates. The high release and survival rate prove that this phase of the project was successful and is also of high demonstration value.
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