Blaming of the shrew for extinction threat
Published 24/06/2014 | 02:30
EXTINCTION is a very real threat facing one of the world's smallest mammals – Ireland's pygmy shrew.
Scientists are urging authorities to ensure bigger hedgerows and more deciduous woodland is allocated to enable the protection of the species that is deemed to be unique to Ireland.
An invading species, the greater white-toothed shrew, is threatening their existence by dominating food supplies like insects and baby rodents since its discovery here in 2007.
Scientists are still unsure of where the new shrews have come from, but think they may have come to Ireland from France or Spain. This invading species can be three times the size of an Irish shrew and scientists believe it is capable of colonising the entire island by 2050. The only thing in its way at the moment is the River Shannon, which is forming a natural barrier.
University College Dublin's Dr Jon Yearsley said:"The displacement of the pygmy shrew will continue in Ireland as the greater white-toothed shrew carries on spreading rapidly, with the invader only being temporarily hindered by rivers and other barriers."
At the moment, it is believed the new species is outnumbering the traditional shrew in some parts of the country by 20 to three. Dr Allan McDevitt from UCD believes they probably came to Ireland hidden in a shipment of gardening supplies.
"Species can live together after invasions occur, but in this case, there may not be sufficient landscape complexity in Ireland to allow niche partitioning between these two species of shrew," he said.
"We appeal to the appropriate authorities in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to address the issue of invasive species causing severe ecological impacts across the island."