The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) is urging Ministers Simon Coveney and Heather Humphries to act urgently to save the golden eagle reintroduction project from failure. Last week the Golden Eagle Trust confirmed what many ecologists already suspected: the project is failing as there is not enough food in the Donegal landscape to sustain the birds. No chicks were fledged in 2015 and only one in 2014, and as the parent birds age time is running out to build a viable population. In a Facebook post they said “the situation is critical”…”if there was a better food supply within the territories of the four pairs, it is likely some chicks would have fledged in 2015.” In short, there is not enough food on the hills to sustain the birds and the entire project, which commenced in 2001 is now at risk of failure.
IWT Campaigns Officer Pádraic Fogarty says “it would be tragic were golden eagles to go extinct again, after all the hard work put in by the Golden Eagle Trust and others. Their loss would represent a huge blow to Donegal, not least from the tourism potential that these birds present. Sadly the lack of any management plan for Glenveagh National Park or surrounding ‘special protection areas’, or any conservation measures to protect the eagles is now placing the future of golden eagles in Ireland at threat.”
In Scotland, golden eagles typically eat hares or red grouse. In Donegal, however, they have been observed catching crows and badger cubs, indicating low numbers of their preferred prey. Indeed the threat faced by golden eagles is indicative of the on-going decline in the health of upland habitats in Ireland, mainly due to uncontrolled burning, turf extraction and over-grazing by sheep. The IWT is calling on Ministers Coveney and Humphries to urgently introduce a Burren-style farming scheme that can improve conditions in the uplands, not only for golden eagles but for the many species that also rely on it.