The Cry of the Curlew

A curlew.

By Mary Gallagher, Assistant Editor
March / April 2019

Irish Plant and Animal Life Endangered


One third of the species of Irish plant and animal wildlife are in danger of extinction, according to the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT). On the endangered list are a large proportion of marine life, insects, and plants, including the alpine saxifrage (a perennial plant), the angel shark, birds such as the curlew and the twite, and a third of the bee species native to Ireland.

“Ninety percent of our highest-value habitats protected under the E.U.’s Habitats Directive are in ‘poor’ or ‘inadequate’ status,” Padraic Fogarty, IWT’s campaign officer, asserted in his report. Most of the causes are related to human interaction with the environment: climate change, of which Ireland has been feeling the effects in recent years; the reduction of space in natural habitats (only 0.6 percent of Ireland’s original bog lands and one-percent forest coverage of the island as a whole remain); atmosphere and water pollution; and an abuse of finite resources, including overfishing.

In a plea to the Irish government to be proactive, Fogarty enumerated steps to avoid or slow the strikingly rapid process, noting, “We are likely to be the last generation to have the power to take meaningful measures to save life on Earth.” Suggestions include a large-scale restoration of natural habitats for threatened wildlife, including boglands, peatlands, and conifer forests, and incentive for Irish farmers to adopt non-abrasive methods.

“This can be done to the great benefit of Irish communities,” he added. “Small-scale coastal fishing communities have all but disappeared. Conversely, restoring natural systems brings great opportunity in bringing benefits back to local people and resilience to those who depend upon them.”

In response to pleas from the trust and other nature -based organizations, the government offered a plan to impede the progress of extinction, which includes restoring former wetland areas, starting a national seed bank to preserve native plants, and educating the public on the needs of vulnerable species and habitats. “We need to protect the nature we have,” explained Irish Senator Grace O’Sullivan, “and bring in policies to restore what we had before.” ♦ Mary Gallagher

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