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Irish deputy premier expresses dismay at poisoning of eagle in Co Antrim

The RSPB is offering a £5,000 reward for information about the incident concerning a bird released by Micheal Martin in the Republic last year.

Ireland’s deputy premier has expressed dismay at the poisoning of a white-tailed eagle in Co Antrim that he released in the Republic.

Micheal Martin released the bird on the Shannon Estuary last August as part of the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service’s white-tailed Eagle reintroduction programme.

It has been confirmed that the bird, along with a second white-tailed eagle of unknown origin, were poisoned.

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TanaisteMicheal Martin said he was saddened by the deaths of the birds (Brian Lawless/PA)

The alarm was raised when conservationists monitoring the bird released by Mr Martin, which was fitted with a satellite tag, became concerned when the tag’s data indicated it had stopped moving.

The bird’s body was then traced, with a second untagged bird also lying dead close by in the Glenhead Road area of Ballymena on May 15.

A post-mortem examination revealed both birds tested positive for the insecticide bendiocarb.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has launched an investigation, while the RSPB NI is offering a £5,000 reward for information around the poisoning.

Tanaiste Micheal Martin said he is “deeply saddened and shocked”.

“I have closely followed the reintroduction programme for a number of years and to be involved in the release of the seven young eagles in 2022 was an experience that I will never forget,” he said.

“These are an iconic species, and the work of the NPWS in reintroducing them is something I, and the Government, am proud to support.

“There have been great successes in the programme over recent years, so to learn of a poisoning like this is very disappointing.”

The tagged eagle had been brought as a chick in 2022 from Norway before his release in the Shannon Estuary area.

He spent a number of months on the Shannon Estuary before starting to travel around the country. He crossed into Northern Ireland from south Donegal on the May 1.

NPWS staff believe the second unknown eagle may have fledged from a nest in Munster in 2021.

NPWS director general Niall O’Donnchu described the losses as a setback.

“White-tailed eagles are beautiful and rare birds, and while we are in the midst of a successful reintroduction programme, these setbacks truly matter,” he said.

“The deliberate poisoning of birds of prey is a heinous crime against nature and an offence under the Wildlife Act. These birds have no means of detecting that they have been baited and the malice aforethought in these acts doesn’t bear thinking about.”

Joanne Sherwood, director RSPB NI, said the charity is offering a £5,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction of those who are responsible for the poisoning.

The PSNI’s Rural and Wildlife Crime Superintendent Johnston McDowell said the illegal killing of the “majestic birds” is “disgraceful”.

“The test results suggest that an individual not only has access to the insecticide bendiocarb but has placed this in to the outside environment illegally, so that wild birds have been able to consume it,” he said.

“Bendiocarb is present in the trade product Ficam D, a powder which is only permitted for indoor use to control crawling insects such as wasps and ants, so using this active ingredient in fields would be a breach of Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR).

“The illegal killing of these beautiful birds in a popular rural area is disgraceful, and for any individual to think that they can ignore the law and lay poisonous bait which has led to the killing of these birds, is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

He said officers, with support from the National Wildlife Crime Unit, have been on the ground conducting house-to-house enquiries in the areas where the birds were seen before they were found dead.

“The Police Service of Northern Ireland will continue to work with our partners to tackle this criminal activity, investigate any reports made to us and prosecute offenders,” he said.

He urged anyone with information to come forward.

“There must be people in the community who are aware of individuals committing these offences, and who can come forward and assist police with any information they have,” he said.

“If you notice any suspicious activity in rural areas, notice a dead or injured bird of prey, please call police on 101, or you can make a report via Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at http://crimestoppers-uk.org.”

The RSPB can be contacted on their confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101 or online at crime@rspb.org.uk.

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