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Tue2nd Mar 2010

Poison kills Golden Eagle "Conall"

A healthy young Irish Golden Eagle has been found poisoned on the Sligo/Leitrim border at Truskmore Mountain. The 10 month old eagle chick was born and reared in a Donegal eyrie in 2009. The bird had spent the last four months wandering the beautiful mountains above Glencar Waterfall, Lough Gill and Gleniff.

The bird was tracked and found using a Global Positioning System satellite transmitter fitted on its back. The corpse, recovered on the 18th February 2010, was just inside the County Leitrim border. A post mortem carried out by the Regional Veterinary Laboratory in Rathcormack, Sligo revealed that the young male was in excellent condition prior to its death. Toxicology analysis, carried out at the Ashtown Food Research Centre, Dublin 15 prove that the eagle was poisoned by Nitroxynil poured over the fleece of a dead newborn or aborted lamb. Nitroxynil is found in Throdax, which is a veterinary medicine used to treat liver fluke in livestock. New born lambs are not treated for liver fluke. Initial surveillance suggests that no local farmer has any new born lambs outdoors at present. Gardaí in Sligo Town have begun their investigation.

This male eagle was named Conall after "Tír Conall" - the Irish name for Donegal. Local people and children in Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim had been watching and following its regular movements on the project website (www.goldeneagle.ie).

Prior to the 2009 lambing season another satellite tagged Golden Eagle was found poisoned with Paraquat on the 19th February 2009 in West Donegal. The loss of up to 10% of Irish Golden Eagle population within a year suggests that the Golden Eagle Project could fail, unless the unlawful use of toxins by a small percentage of farmers ceases. In total, nine White tailed Eagles, Golden Eagles and Kites have been confirmed poisoned in Ireland over the last two and a half years. Recent monitoring by the Golden Eagle Trust proves that poisons, such as Alphachloralose, Carbofuran, Paraquat and Nitroxynil, have been used illegally in Munster, Ulster, Leinster and now Connaught.

The Golden Eagle Trust believes that over 95% of landowners across Ireland do not use poison. It is also clear, from the 11,000 comments, on the Golden Eagle Trust?s anti-poisoning petition (see www.goldeneagle.ie), that the illegal use of poisons is condemned across both rural and urban Ireland.

Despite previous banner headlines and widespread public revulsion at previous poisoning incidents there has had no discernible impact on the arrogant and selfish poisoners who continue to break the law. The Golden Eagle Trust has come to realise that only peer-group pressure from within the farming sector will dissuade poisoners from carrying on this needless and indiscriminate method of controlling foxes and crows. The Golden Eagle Trust lodged a formal complaint with the European Union in late 2009 concerning the failure of the Irish Government to implement legislation protecting Ireland's rare scavenging birds of prey.

We believe that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food need to state unequivocally that the poisoning of any Annexe I bird of prey (such as eagles and kites) is a breach of the Cross Compliance measures, which are a pre-condition of the Single Farm Payments they distribute. Could the Department consider adopting a protocol, whereby immediate farm inspections of all flock owners take place within a radius of 5km of any proven poisoning incident ?

The Irish Agri-food sector, which employs 160,000 people in Ireland, now needs to grapple with the glaring contradiction which exists, between the highly lauded promotion of Irish food as quality produce and the emerging evidence of the ongoing highly damaging illegal use of toxins among some non compliant farm food producers. Do Bord Bia believe that the increasing stain of poisoning within Ireland's farm food systems is beneficial to the promotion of 'natural and green Irish farm foods' abroad?

Unlike the more prosperous farmers in parts of Leinster and Munster, farmers on the western seaboard are more heavily involved in the wider rural economy in order to bolster their meagre annual income. The consequences of using poison on meat will create an uncomfortable impression on potential tourists wishing to visit a relaxing and natural area of such scenic beauty as Leitrim and Sligo and thereby curtail the potential for the off farm income of local farm families.

We are genuinely despondent that 10 years of active awareness measures, liaison with farmers and schoolchildren and the production of a poisoning advice leaflet for farmers, agreed with the main farming representative bodies, has been effectively destroyed by a recent edition of the Irish Farmers Journal. The Sheep Section, within the Irish Farmers Journal, advised sheep farmers that "Alphachloralose placed in a dead lamb or the afterbirth can help trap foxes." [Farmers Journal, 6th February 2010, see here]. This appalling advice on the unlawful use of fallen poisoned livestock, is indicative of a glaring disregard for regulations within a small sector of the Agricultural community and more crucially within the main weekly voice of Irish farming.

Lorcán O Toole from the Golden Eagle Trust said, "This issue is about the illegal use of poison within Irish farming. We believe the few hundred farmers using poison illegally are at variance with the huge environmental advances Irish farming has undergone over the last ten years. We have always fully acknowledged the support and co-operation of the sheep farming community in the Northwest and continue to do so. But unfortunately the poisoning this Golden Eagle, undermines the image of Irish food and weakens the potential for local tourism and damages the fragile rural economy in the Northwest, we believe."

"Increasingly, farmers in Ireland will look for support from the ordinary Irish consumer to support their efforts for more sustainable prices for farm produce and in maintaining the crucial farming presence in rural Ireland after pending reforms to the EU?s Common Agricultural Policy. Farmers need to question whether the actions of a tiny minority could undermine that consumer support."

O' Toole added, "Farmers in Donegal bear witness to the fact that eagles can readily co-exist with sheep farming. We believe that ordinary people across Ireland expect Irish Agriculture to co-exist with Nature. Is our green nation so timid, so tame and so weak that we cannot tolerate several pairs of Wild Golden Eagles ? If Golden Eagles become extinct in Ireland for the second time in little over a century, then this small charity can only but apologise for imagining that free flying Eagles, in this new Millennium, would encounter a society that broadly re-embraced the ancient Gaelic respect for Wild Creatures."

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Thu28th Jan 2010

In 2009, 1 Golden Eagle, 1 White-tailed Eagle and 1 Red Kite were found poisoned, with three different toxins in 3 separate provinces during the springtime. There was widespread public dismay and national, and some international, media concern regarding these incidents. The Scottish Authorities called for a detailed review of the Golden Eagle donor stock licence for the Donegal project as a direct result of the confirmed poisoning near Glenveagh National Park. The Irish Government repeatedly promised at the time, that a legislative change would be introduced all but banning the use of poisoned meat baits, outside exceptional licensed exemptions. This small legislative compromise, still allowing for the use of non-meat baits according to the existing poisoning regulations, has still not been introduced.

Now almost twelve months later and nothing has changed since last year. The White-tailed Eagle Steering Group in Kerry has produced a leaflet, with the support of the Irish Farmers Association, Teagasc, the Department of Agriculture and local Gun Clubs asking people to improve aspects of livestock and game protection, to avoid the use of poison meat baits, and only use alternative poison baits or control methods as a last resort.

The Golden Eagle Trust (GET) manages the Golden Eagle Reintroduction Programme in Donegal, the White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction Programme in Kerry, and the Red Kite Reintroduction Programme in Wicklow, in partnership with the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The GET has lobbied for more than 10 years for simple changes to the Irish poisoning legislation and though some alterations have been made, people are still allowed to use meat baits under certain conditions.

However, even these few simple conditions are not being adhered to and the use of poison continues with dire consequences for wildlife, farm dogs, pets, and potentially human health. The GET submitted a formal complaint to the EU Commission, in December 2009, contending that the Irish Government are in breach of the 1979 European Union Birds Directive. Primarily, the current legislation in Ireland permits Foxes to be poisoned with meat baits (and crows and Magpies with non-meat baits), without adequate safeguards to prevent the inevitable poisoning of birds of prey (including Annex 1 species). This is in contravention of Articles 4 and 9 of the Birds Directive, because clear alternative and discriminate control measures are available. In addition, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food fails to ensure that farmers, who are in receipt of direct payments (Single Farm Payment and Rural Environmental Protection Scheme) under the EU Common Agricultural Policy, comply with the Cross Compliance Policy and that they duly implement the Statutory Management Requirements in respect of the obligation not to harm Annex 1 birds of prey (which are protected under the Birds Directive).

In April 2009, the GET set up an online Anti-Poisoning petition on its website, www.goldeneagle.ie . In June, Dublin Zoo put out a hard copy of the petition in their visitor area. The petition has now closed and over 11,000 people have formally signed and requested the Irish Government to ban the use of poison meat baits. Over 7,619 people signed the online petition and 3,424 people signed a hardcopy of the petition in Dublin Zoo. People from over 60 countries have signed this petition, with special support for the change also coming from people in Britain, Germany, USA and France. So this issue is much greater than a mere national problem - people internationally are aware of our shortcomings in this area. The comments of those signatories are noteworthy and the general abhorrence of poison, as a form of control of large mammals and birds, is clear.

Lorcán O' Toole of the Golden Eagle Trust, said, "We have been writing to different individuals, at different levels within the relevant Government Departments for over 10 years now, requesting simple legislative changes that will not discommode any person using poison in a responsible manner. But despite continued promises and genuine aspirations within the Statutory Authorities it appears as if some unidentified issue or bureaucratic problem is stymieing the push for legislative change. Reluctantly, we feel obliged to protect the public funding in these national restoration projects by making this formal European Complaint, which is geared at bringing this underlining tension to a head and getting these changes adopted, either through regulations or legislation, and past whatever internal Departmental blockages that there are."

O Toole added, "It is very clear from the comments on our website petition that people are fed up with the lazy and reckless use of indiscriminate poison. It is also clear from these same comments, and the GET would like to endorse these views, that the vast majority of people in rural Ireland and within the farming sector are fed up with the illegal use of poison and the negativity it produces. We believe that very simple changes in legislation and in Departmental advice and practice could satisfy the points raised in the European Complaint and thereby bring clarity to a rather complex issue."

More Info
download the eu_complaint_nov_2009.zip document (4.39 MB)
download the poisoning brochure page 1 document (.3 MB)
download the poisoning brochure page 2 document (.8 MB)
download the poisoning brochure as a single image file document (1.5 MB)

Dead WT Eagles 1
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Fri17th Apr 2009

Efforts to restore Ireland's lost birds of prey have suffered more losses due to poisoning. Results from toxicology tests carried out at the State Laboratory in Cellbridge, Co. Kildare and at the SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture) Laboratory in Edinburgh, Scotland have confirmed that a White-tailed Eagle, recovered dead, on 12th March, near the shore of Lough Lein, Killarney was poisoned with Carbofuran and a Red Kite found dead near Tiglin, County Wicklow, on the 16th March, was also confirmed to have been poisoned with Alphachloralose. These two deaths follow closely on the recent finding of a Golden Eagle, poisoned by Paraquat, in Co. Donegal on 19th February 2009. The fact that three separate poisons were used to kill three different species, found in three different counties, shows the full extent of the threat that poisons pose to Irish birds of prey. Clearly the unlawful use of poisoned meat baits is, unfortunately, still a countrywide practice.

The poisoned bird in Kerry is the fifth White-tailed Eagle, from the batch of 15 birds released in Killarney National Park in August 2007, to have been poisoned. The White-tailed Eagle that was killed was well traveled and was regarded as a flagship bird of the project. In September 2007, it visited the Blasket Islands and the Skelligs after its release and thrilled boatmen and tourists alike. Although it spent its first winter in Kerry, it spent last summer around Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland, before returning to Killarney in September 2008. Despite surviving all these travels, across numerous counties and over scores of Irish farms, it met its fate just a short distance from where it was released. It had apparently ingested part of a sheep carcass laced with poison.

The Golden Eagle poisoned in Donegal had eaten meat bait laced with Paraquat. Paraquat is a lethal weed killer, with no known antidote, and unfortunately has killed several people in the past. It is totally unacceptable that a substance, known to be poisonous to humans, should be left out in grazing areas and fields containing sheep and other animals. Scottish Natural Heritage, the statutory conservation authority of the Scottish Government, has called a full review of the Irish Golden Eagle reintroduction project export licence, which allows donor stock to be collected in Scotland, in light of this recent poisoning incident.

The Golden Eagle Trust and BirdWatch Ireland are calling for an urgent review of the laws governing the supply, storage, use and mis-use of poisons and the enforcement of these laws and regulations. Recent changes in legislation by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, in January 2008, prohibits the use of meat baits in the control of birds. But the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1965 still allows, in certain restricted circumstances, the use of poison on meat baits to control foxes.

This legislation has been now been proven to be clearly in breach of Article 4 and Article 9 of the EU Birds Directive, which specifically protects Annex I species such as eagles and kites. The Golden Eagle Trust will be lodging an official complaint with the EU Commission in this regard within the coming weeks. Sadly, even the limited legislation that is currently in place controlling the use of poisons is itself not being enforced. Regulations governing the use of poison clearly state that people using poison must erect poisoning signs and notify the local Garda Siochana Station in writing - this is simply being ignored. Several of the dead birds ate poisoned dead livestock even though it is illegal to knowingly leave dead livestock above ground under separate Animal By-products regulations.

There are 160,000 jobs in the Irish Agri-food sector, which benefit from the 'clean green' image which our country and food industry has. If this sector is to consolidate its share of an increasingly competitive international consumer market then it must continue to adhere to the highest farming standards. Under the Single Farm Payment Scheme there is a requirement for farmers to comply with a number of Statutory Management Requirements set down in EU Directives and Regulations, including the Birds Directive, which affords rare Annex I species (including Eagles and Kites) special protection. The Single Payment Scheme in Ireland is fully funded by the EU and European taxpayers. The illegal use of poison on a small number of Irish farms is not compatible with the obligations those in receipt of the Single Farm Payment have or with the promotion of Ireland's clean food image.

The Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) is one of the main expenditure items of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Budget, and it is estimated it will cost several hundred million Euros in 2009. The Golden Eagle Trust has made two previous submissions, under periodic REPS reviews, stating that poisoning with meat baits be banned on farms in receipt of payments specifically designed to protect the Irish Environment. We would appeal to the Department of Agriculture, once again, to consider this as a matter of urgency. Is it acceptable that a small number of landowners in receipt of payments under the Rural Environment Protection Scheme and Single Farm Payment continue to use poisons that kill protected and rare birds?

The economies and employment in Kerry, Donegal and Wicklow are each heavily dependent on tourism and each county rightly promotes the beauty of their respective landscapes. Golden Eagles, White-tailed Eagles and Red Kites are increasingly being used to highlight each county's wild landscapes in essential tourism promotional packages. It is known for example, that the Eagles on Scotland's Isle of Mull alone, contribute 3 million euro per annum to this small island economy. Each Irish county has the potential to replicate these specific eco-tourism incomes locally. But each county's wider promotional activities will be undermined to some degree if these projects fail due to poisoning. The deaths of these birds by poisoning are being widely publicized abroad, especially in the donor countries (Norway, Scotland, Wales) where legislation banning the use of such poisons has been in place for several decades.

Project Manager, Allan Mee of the Golden Eagle Trust said, "The sad thing is that none of this needs to happen. Landowners and eagles should be able to coexist in Kerry just as they do in Norway where White-tailed Eagles nest next to farms. Something has to be done about the poisoning situation or more eagles with die. It's a national disgrace that we continue to mindlessly wipe out wildlife by using poisons in this day and age."

Alan Lauder, BirdWatch Ireland's Head of Conservation said, "These poisonings sadden us. The efforts of the Golden Eagle Trust, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and other project partners, volunteers and stakeholders who wish to see the projects succeed are being let down by the actions of some irresponsible individuals. Most landowners would choose safer, more targeted and legitimate methods of pest control than opt to use indiscriminate and potentially harmful poison baits."

Alan continued, "These poisonings highlight the failure of the domestic legislation to adequately protect our wild birds and also show how the irresponsible actions of a few individuals affect not only the lives of majestic birds of prey but the livelihoods of local people in communities that depend on wildlife to attract visitors. If these poisonings persist they will continue to blight the country's reputation and potentially scupper attempts to restore some precious parts of Ireland's heritage."

The Golden Eagle Trust, the charity managing all three projects in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, believes the current "light regulation" of poisoning in Ireland is simply killing too many Eagles and Kites. Poisoning has now been proven to be a real threat to the national effort, funded by Irish tax payer's money, to restore our native Irish Eagles and Kites. Birds of prey can co-exist with modern farming practices, as happens elsewhere across Europe. The GET would like to highlight the enormous support the reintroduction projects receive from the large majority of landowners, farmers, gun clubs, schools, hill walkers, tourism interests and many others, but must stress that reckless poisoning is an outdated and selfish habit of a very small minority of individuals.

For further information contact:

  • Allan Mee
    White-tailed Eagle Project Manager,
    Golden Eagle Trust, Direen, Black Valley,
    Beaufort, Co. Kerry
    Tel: 087-3117608
    E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

  • Damian Clarke
    Red Kite Project Manager,
    Golden Eagle Trust, Wicklow Mountains National Park,
    Laragh, Co. Wicklow.
    Tel 086 3284463
    E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

  • Alan Lauder
    Head of Conservation,
    Birdwatch Ireland, Crank House,
    Banagher, Co Offaly
    Tel: 057 915 1676
    E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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