Thursday 22 March 2018

Spotlight shines on wolves, wild boars and wildlife in danger

Pat Flynn

It's more than 800 years since the wild boar became extinct in Ireland but its legacy lives on in Cork.

The town of Kanturk (Ceann Tuirc or Boar's head.) still celebrates its long lost wildlife at its annual wild boar festival held in late summer.

Now a new six-part nature series, to be aired on TG4 from Tuesday, will explore wildlife in peril on our island nation as well as the reasons behind the disappearance of many different species.

Ag Dul in Eag (Dying Out), takes a broader look at threatened Irish wildlife and recounts the fascinating stories of how some species suffered annihilation.

Clare wildlife expert John Murphy, who is also director of Newmarket-on-Fergus-based Waxwing Wildlife Productions, said: "Some of our most interesting species have been decimated. The wolf, the wild boar, the Eurasian crane and the brown bear were once plentiful in our woodlands, waterways and caves."

The maternal ancestors of modern polar bears were from Ireland, according to a DNA study of ancient brown bear bones. Scientists in the UK, Ireland and the US analysed the teeth and skeletons of 17 brown bears that were found at cave sites across Ireland.

"Some of our native species were hunted out of extinction either by directive or demand, such as the wolf and the wild boar, whilst others fell prey to the clearance of our woodlands -- the brown bear, capercaillie and red squirrel," said Mr Murphy.

"To eradicate a species once is regrettable, but to allow it to disappear for a second time is simply irresponsible. This could be the fate of our native red squirrel. In the past, the clearance of our woodlands and the open killing spree that was waged on the red squirrel decimated this mammal.

"But after the English restocked the countryside with them, the introduction of a non-native grey squirrel from America in the 1800s once again put them in danger. If these aggressive grey squirrels aren't kept in check, they will very soon eradicate our native reds."

The strong links to Irish folklore that many of the extinct species have will also be explored in the series.

"The fearsome wild boar went extinct in Ireland around the 12th Century and it features prominently in our native folklore. There are many legendary stories of the Fianna hunting boar and the Cork town of Kanturk got its name from Ceann Tuirc, meaning Boar's head. The people of Kanturk still have an affiliation with this tasty pig and are now asserting the aphrodisiac qualities of the meat," Mr Murphy added.

'Ag Dul in Eag' will be broadcast on TG4 on Tuesday, November 8, at 8pm and will be repeated on Sunday at 9pm

Sunday Independent

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