A dedicated Wildlife Crime Unit needs to be set up to stop “total wildlife wipe out” in certain parts of the country, the Irish Wildlife Trust has said.
Last year, 499 farmers discovered their land had been burnt during the March-August closed season - up from 335 in 2021 and 380 in 2020.
There also certain parts of the country where reporting of crime against wildlife is suspiciously low and the Irish Wildlife Trust believes a dedicated unit would help tackle the phenomenon.
“It has resulted in total wildlife wipe out across most of our hills - it’s been absolutely devastating,” campaign officer Pádraic Fogarty told The Pat Kenny Show.
“It’s not just that you have one fire… if you’re burning the hill year in, year out, for decades what you’re left with is total collapse of the local ecosystem.
“The result of that is biodiversity extinction, water pollution, air pollution.
“We welcome that there has been some moves to at least send out a signal that this is not acceptable behaviour.
“But we’re not really seeing enough because there’s still no farmers in these areas to actually manage their land properly and that’s the big problem at the moment.”
Mr Fogarty added that the poisoning of birds of prey that target livestock is another “long standing problem” that could be dealt with by such a unit.
“I think what has happened is a culture of impunity has built up in the countryside. People think they can do these things and get away with it,” he added.
“We have seen, under the current Government, greater emphasis on prosecutions and that has translated into greater numbers of prosecutions and that’s very welcome.
“But we’re still seeing large parts of the country where apparently there’s no wildlife crime happening - for instance, Donegal or the southwest of the country.
“This is why we’ve been calling for a dedicated Wildlife Crime Unit that would standardise how these crimes are investigated across the country and bring standards procedures to it.
“At the moment, we’re seeing very patchy distribution about where prosecutions are happening.”
He also said that the State sets an extremely poor example and described it as “probably the biggest breaker of environmental laws in Ireland”.
“State agencies are doing damage to riverbanks, they are interfering with resting places for protected species, they’re not implementing environmental law,” he said.
“This was highlighted by the Citizens’ Assembly a few months ago.
“It was highlighted by the independent Biodiversity Forum - who described the State as the biggest transgressor of environmental law.
“Basically, the State hasn’t been serious about implementing environmental law”.
The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications has been contacted for comment.
Main image: A golden eagle in Donegal. Picture by: Alamy.com