Michelle Devane, PA
The Taoiseach has released white-tailed eagle chicks into the wild in Co Kerry as part of an initiative to reintroduce the native and formerly extinct species to Irish skies.
Micheal Martin released the sea chicks in Tarbert, Co Kerry, on Friday alongside the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
A total of 16 young eagles are set to be released at three sties across Munster including Killarney National Park, Lough Derg and the lower Shannon estuary as part of the second phase of a long-term wildlife project aiming to re-establish a population of the species in Ireland.
The Fianna Fáil leader said: “I have followed this project for a number of years now and watching the eagles take to the skies for the first time is something that will last long in the memory.
“It is wonderful to see the development since the first introduction of chicks a number of years ago. These white-tailed eagles are magnificent birds which will play a key role in a functioning ecosystem, after having been driven to extinction in the 19th century as a result of human actions.”
Mr Martin paid tribute to all those involved in the project from the National Parks and Wildlife Service to local farmers, communities and conservation bodies.
He added that the project underlines, in practical terms, Ireland’s commitment to implementing the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
“I am particularly grateful to the Norwegian authorities and colleagues for their collaboration which has enabled this exciting reintroduction to happen,” he said.
The birds, once a striking element of Ireland’s natural landscape, were driven to extinction on the island as a result of human persecution.
Restoring this lost species is a significant step in restoring the country’s natural heritage and biodiversity. It also has the potential to contribute significantly to rural economies through eco-tourism opportunities.
In the first phase of the reintroduction programme, 100 young white-tailed eagles were released in Killarney National Park in Co Kerry.
As in previous years, the young eagles were collected under licence in Norway by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and co-workers.
All the birds have been fitted with satellite tags in Ireland to enable their progress to be followed and their integration into the existing Irish breeding population monitored.
As they mature, the chicks will join and strengthen the small Irish breeding population that has become established since the reintroduction programme began in 2007.
Some 31 young eagles from Norway have been released over the last two years. The additional 16 birds being released this year, will bring the total to 47.