19/12/2014 : Highland cattle introduced to Co Kildare wetland in pilot Conservation Grazing Project
Rare butterfly and snail species expected to benefit from project
Friday, 19th December—The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, has today announced the start of a pilot Conservation Grazing Project at Pollardstown Fen near Newbridge in Co. Kildare by her Department.
Locally sourced highland cattle have been introduced to the site, which is largely State owned, to help conserve rare and protected habitats and species. The Marsh Fritilliary Butterfly and Vertigo whorled snail, which are in decline due to the destruction of their natural habitats, will be among the species to benefit from the project.
Minister Humphreys said:
“This pilot project aims to help conserve important species at Pollardstown Fen. Through their grazing, the highland cattle can prevent certain plants from dominating the area, which is good for under-threat species such as the Marsh Fritilliary Butterfly and Vertigo whorled snail.
“Officials from the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department will be carefully monitoring the project to see how these species react. Pollardstown Fen is internationally important due to the unique collection of habitats, birds and animals it supports. It is also an important local amenity, which has been boosted by the addition of a visitor facility, 800m boardwalk and specially designed interpretive panelling, which have been installed at key points of interest within the site.”
Grazing can be an important conservation management tool. Highland cattle are naturally adapted to live on sites like Pollardstown Fen and thrive on the coarse fibrous vegetation found there, which other cattle breeds find unpalatable.
Such extensive grazing regimes prevent a small number of vigorous tall-growing plants such as reeds and tall grasses from dominating, while still retaining a mosaic of tall and short habitat patches favoured by invertebrates.
An initial six hectare area of fen has been selected for this pilot project and further 18 hectares of State-owned land within the site has been identified as suitable for expansion of the project in the coming years.