A cull of wild rabbits at Derrynane National Park will turn the landscape into a "bloodbath," an animal rights activist has said.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) is to commission a cull of wild rabbits on Derrynane House National Park in County Kerry after a dramatic increase in the population has had a negative impact on other wildlife and rare plants.
The European Rabbit was introduced to Ireland by the Normans over 800 years ago, and are designated a medium impact invasive species by the National Biodiversity Data Centre.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, animal rights activist John Carmody said he is "dishearted" by the lastest cull.
"I mean, I've been working on these campaigns for years and you know, we've had targets on deer, we've had targets on seals and now we're hearing about the rabbits population in Derrynane," he said.
"I'm kind of scratching my head since, asking myself, 'What has went on in the last couple of months with [the rabbits] down there, that went on in the last number of years?
"As the saying goes, you breed like rabbits and there is no way a cull is going to stop those animals breeding down there – it's totally unscientific."
Local Fianna Fáil Councillor Norma Moriarty rejected Mr Carmody's claim that the decision was "shortsighted".
"It's being done with a view to the future and the protection of the biodiversity down there and a very, very, very sensitive ecosystem, in terms of the dune system that's there at Derrynane," she said.
"It's also very scientifically based because it's the results of surveys that have been carried out and also very visible erosion."
Councillor Moriarty said the size of the rabbits has led to "overgrazing" – while a lack of natural predators has increased their population significantly.
"There's a serious imbalance taking place, because of the overgrazing we don't have that very important grassland that effectively knits the dunes together and protects the area from further erosion," she said.
"They also pose a threat to the natterjack toad, the choughs and the whorl snails."
Mr Carmody said a lot of the rabbits will end up being maimed.
"Quite essentially, that beautiful National Park is going to turn into a bloodbath," he said.
"I get it – we can't exactly go down there and hand out each individual rabbit a pack of condoms and say, 'Off you go lads'.
"So why don't the Office of Public Works come and sit down with campaigners and wildlife biologists and come up with a solution?"
Councillor Moriarty said a "plethora" of actions had been considered by the OPW.
"When you're talking about ecosystems and balance, it's basically about the order of beings and their natural predators, and the absence of that natural predator has meant an unnatural explosion of the rabbit population," she said.
"Part of this plan is the introduction of ferrets as part of [introducing natural predators], as much possible, to be in sync with what nature would want, but it does need a helping hand."
Mr Carmody said "interfering" in nature is what human beings do best.
"We definitely know how to wreck the place and destroy the place and ransack environments," he said.
"This is almost like going back to the Flintstone eras where we're sending in ferrets in the hope that we'd be able to get some of the rabbits taken out so that we can, in some way, shape or form, protect the other species.
"Stop right now, stop this tender and let's go back to the table and come up with a more humane and kinder solution for all."