A BAN on hunting Kerry red deer and curlews has been imposed in a bid to help protect their dwindling numbers.
A massive decline in curlew numbers -- now down by up to 95pc -- was behind the Government's shooting ban.
Poaching of red deer has become a big problem because of the big demand for venison. The ban on shooting female Kerry red deer means that all reds are now protected as it had already been illegal to hunt the red stag in the county.
Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan removed the curlew bird from the open season for shooting wild game birds.
The curlew has traditionally had a month-long hunting season during November, although it is thought that few hunters continue to shoot the bird.
An official ban has now been introduced.
A number of surveys and studies in the past year have estimated a dramatic reduction in the total number of breeding pairs of curlews in Ireland. These estimates indicate a decrease ranging from 60pc to 96pc.
Mr Deenihan said: "This decision will be welcomed by conservationists and hunters. I am aware that some hunting bodies have already introduced voluntary hunting bans for the curlew and I commend them for this action."
Meanwhile, new monitoring of red deer in Killarney National Park has found a significant decline in numbers.
At the turn of the 20th Century there were in excess of 1,500 red deer in Killarney. This declined between 1900 and 1960 to as few as 60, according to the Wild Deer Association of Ireland. However, as a result of rigorous protection, numbers increased and hit around 690 in the early 1990s.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service will be monitoring compliance with the initiatives.