THE Government has been accused of hypocrisy over its failure to protect one of Ireland’s indigenous species – the Irish Hare.
The Irish mountain hare is a legally protected species under the Irish Wildlife act, the European Habitats directive and the international Berne Convention…..but only for five months a year!
The protection doesn’t exist during the hunting season when the animal can be used for coursing or can be killed by hunters. And campaigners fear the Irish hare will go the way of the curlew.
The renewed calls for a ban on hare coursing and hare hunting follows a warning from wildlife experts that the Irish Hare is “in trouble”, with dwindling numbers.
A feature on RTE Radio 1’s Mooney Goes Wild claimed hares in some parts of Ireland are “becoming extinct”.
Programme presenter Derek Mooney told listeners that while hares are thriving at Dublin Airport, “their numbers elsewhere around the country are dwindling”.
Speaking on the show, ecologist Dr Karina Dingerkus said that “over the last 50 years, numbers have declined significantly.”
The National Parks and Wildlife Service – where Madigan is Minister – has commissioned Queen’s University Belfast to carry out a hare survey this year and next to get a population estimate.
“We know that hare populations do fluctuate naturally but we don’t know by how much,” Dr Dingerkus stated. “We certainly know that numbers have declined.”
Later in the programme, she added: “We don’t see very many…Certainly over the past 50 years, we know numbers have dropped dramatically…they’re in trouble…we do know that they have been dropping over a long period of time.”
Hare coursing is licensed by Minister Madigan and the National Parks and Wildlife Service and is allowed from August to February, despite the ‘protection’ of European laws.
The Ban Bloodsports Group said: “Thousands of hares are snatched from the wild in nets, held in captivity for months, manhandled, fed an unnatural diet and eventually forced to run for their lives from pairs of greyhounds. Every coursing season, hares are injured and killed on coursing fields and those who survive the ordeal are at risk of later dying as a result of stress-related capture myopathy.
“Hares are not only under threat from cruel coursers but also from shooters and hunters with packs of hounds.
“According to the National Parks and Wildlife Service website, the permitted “hunting period” for the Irish Hare runs from “the 26th day of September in each year and ending on the 28th day of February in the year immediately following that year.” The “manner of hunting” is “shooting with firearms; coursing at regulated coursing matches; hunting with packs of beagles and harriers.”
“This latest acknowledgement that the Irish Hare is in trouble with numbers having “dropped dramatically” should set alarm bells ringing in Minister Madigan’s office and at the NPWS. They should learn from what happened to the curlew, a bird now on the brink of extinction in Ireland.
“It wasn’t until 2012, when its numbers had plummeted by up to 96%, that a ban on curlew shooting was finally put in place. Announcing the long overdue ban, the then Minister Jimmy Deenihan referred to the massive fall in curlews as “a rather dramatic reduction”.
The group is calling on people here in Co Donegal to contact Minister Josepha Madigan and the National Parks and Wildlife Service to demand an immediate ban on all hare coursing, hare shooting and hare hunting – 12 months of the year.
Minister Josepha Madigan
Minister for Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht
Phone: +353 (0)1 631 3800
Director, National Parks and Wildlife Service
Phone: +353 (0)1 888 3242
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Gerry.Leckey@ahg.gov.ie, firstname.lastname@example.org
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