State finds €200,000 to keep corncrakes calling
THE Department of the Environment yesterday confirmed that it is to spend over €200,000 on a conservation programme for one of Ireland's most endangered species -- the corncrake.
With only 127 corncrake breeding males left in Ireland, the bird is threatened by extinction here and is mainly confined to three areas: west Connacht, Co Donegal and the Shannon Callows.
In response to a ruling by the European Court of Justice that the State has neglected its duty to the corncrake and failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law, the department yesterday unveiled a three-phase €200,000 project to save the corncrake from national extinction.
The first phase of the scheme will be a €90,000 national census of the bird. Field workers are expected to commence the count in the next number of weeks when the migratory bird returns from its winter in Africa.
The second phase will be a €90,000 project to control mink and other predators in the vicinity of nesting corncrakes.
In the third phase, the department is proposing to rent fields from farmers where the corncrake is present in order to ensure its continued conservation.
The corncrake is only one of two breeding species in Ireland that appears on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of endangered species.
Conservation officer with Birdwatch Ireland and corncrake expert, Dr Anita Donaghy said: "The corncrake is very much part of our national cultural heritage. The bird has a special place in our hearts.
"At the turn of the last century, there were corncrakes in every parish in the country. It is a special bird from a different era and it is now incredibly vulnerable."
She added: "It would be a very sad day and a real tragedy if we lost the Corncrake."
A spokesman for the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) said yesterday: "Any proposal as part of a new scheme to rent land will require the agreement of the landowners involved. IFA looks forward to engaging with the National Parks and Wildlife Service."