Major Success for Conservation Programme with decline of Native Farmland Birds reversed

The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, has commended the work of the Department’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) at one of the country’s most significant nature conservation programmes in Boora, Co. Offaly.

The Grey Partridge – one of Ireland’s iconic native game birds – was on the verge of extinction in the late 1990s with a dwindling population of about 20 birds surviving in the wild. Following an intense programme of habitat management and nest protection, which involved captive breeding, the population in the project area is now estimated to be around 800 birds today.

The Boora project is pioneering new techniques in captive breeding and land management, which are now being used in conservation projects across Ireland.

The conservation effort has also resulted in successful breeding for many other species that have been in decline such as Lapwing, Snipe, Woodcock, Sky Lark and Meadow Pipit.

During her visit, the Minister released a covey of Grey Partridge into the wild which will help supplement the wild breeding population.

Minister Madigan said:

“Against the backdrop of concerns for species extinctions globally this is a remarkable story of hands on conservation in action. It is also a wonderful example of how a strong working partnership between our National Parks and Wildlife Service and the local farming community can lead to the reversal of biodiversity loss and species recovery.  It is a testament to what can be achieved together and I commend them on their amazing work.”

NPWS Regional Manager, Pádraig O’Donnell, said “We are very proud of what the team has achieved here. The core area – at 600 acres is one of our largest actively farmed properties and is a recognised area of exceptionally high levels of biodiversity. Many  species – whose populations are in significant decline elsewhere – occur at the NPWS site in Boora in high numbers,  including the Skylark , White Throat and  Meadow pipit. The project area hosts the highest concentration of breeding Lapwing in Ireland.”

Earlier, Minister Madigan visited nearby Clara Bog and Visitor Centre – Ireland’s biggest raised bog Special Area of Conservation, with over 750 species recorded on its 840 hectares. It is among 87,000 hectares, across 6 National Parks and 80 Nature Reserves spread across 20 counties, being managed by the Department’s NPWS division.

She toured the recently extended boardwalk which connects Clara Bog to the town, and was shown the bog’s unique flora and fauna.

Under Project 2040, some €50m has been earmarked for investment in the National Parks and Nature Reserves to ensure the long term protection and presentation of these heritage amenities. A further €60m has been provided for protection of Natural Heritage and Biodiversity.

Minister Madigan said “Each National Park and Nature Reserve contains rare or threatened habitats, flora and fauna, with dramatically different landscapes and habitats, offering a variety of unique visitor experiences.  This investment will facilitate the proactive restoration of our habitats, conservation and biodiversity while balancing the impact of increasing tourism numbers.”

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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