Hunting Kerry red deer outlawed
HUNTING of one of Ireland's most ancient and iconic species, the Kerry red deer, has been outlawed.
Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, said he had moved to enforce a ban on hinds of the herds to preserve numbers.
"Kerry Red Deer are a unique feature of our heritage," he said.
"I have, therefore, decided that, in order to conserve the special lineage of red deer in Kerry, to prohibit the hunting of these unique species."
The ban is being imposed amid fears that dwindling populations - there are an estimated 500-600 in Killarney National Park - could lead to inbreeding.
A ban on the hunting of stags was enforced several years ago but gun enthusiasts were free to kill hinds and poaching is also feared to have become a problem.
Conservationists from the Kerry Deer Society, who helped revive deer numbers in the Kerry mountains to more than 700 over a 40 year period, have been pressuring the minister for a ban.
"Numbers are down dramatically. For some reason they were taken off the protected list whether it was pressure from outsiders or what, we don't know," spokesman Noel Grimes said.
"But what we do need is proper controlled management."
Meanwhile, a separate ban has been imposed on the curlew as the wading bird is red-listed as a globally threatened species.
The Minister said "A number of surveys and studies in the past year have estimated a rather dramatic reduction in the total number of breeding pairs of curlew in the country. These estimates indicate a decrease ranging from 60% to 96%."
The ancestry of the Kerry red deer has been traced back 5,000 years with DNA testing.
Mr Deenihan said he believed hunters would support the ban and that some hunt groups urged action to address the poor populations of Kerry red deer.
The National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) will monitor compliance of the ban and orders allowing for the hunting of other deer species will be reviewed.
"The last substantial change to the open season for deer species was in 2005 so I believe it is timely that a review is now undertaken," Mr Deenihan said.
"I would ask that various interest groups partake in this consultation process as it is important that I have the views of a wide range of interests which will assist my department in considering if changes are needed to the order."