Farmers paid €10m to protect harriers
It's costing €2,600 to save each of just over 300 hen harriers in Ireland today - yet still the endangered raptor continues its rapid population decline.
Hen harriers, known as "sky dancers" for their elaborate aerial displays, are regarded as a vital part of our natural heritage.
Conservationists also stress they are a valuable barometer species to gauge the health of our countryside.
But latest figures show there are only between 108 and 157 breeding pairs left in Ireland - a decline of 8.7pc since 2010.
However, their presence is proving a financial boon for a select group of Irish farmers.
They are sharing a special €10m environmental package, according to Freedom of Information figures secured by the Sunday Independent.
Each year, 377 farmers in nine counties agree to implement a sophisticated conservation plan, including the creation of special hedgerows and 'small mammal' areas, which allow the birds of prey to breed and roam in safety.
Special Protected Areas (SPAs) are operating in Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Laois, Limerick, Monaghan, Offaly, and Tipperary.