Illegal hunting, poisoning and destruction of habitat: The future of Ireland’s wild animals and plants are at risk. Already, more than one in five protected species are threatened with extinction.
Wildlife crime has a devastating impact on our biodiversity but experts say it is on the rise and that prosecutions are rare. The State has not adequately resourced the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to deal with it - despite numerous commitments.
Our investigation will expose the extent of wildlife crime in Ireland and find out whether the “unprecedented steps” the government says it has taken to protect wildlife are credible.
WHAT YOUR FUNDING SUPPORTS
Ireland has a poor track record on wildlife protection. In June 2023, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the State failed to fulfill its obligations to protect vulnerable habitats under EU law.
The deliberate poisoning and shooting of birds of prey is common, as is off-license hare coursing and deer poaching.
Our investigation will identify what forms of wildlife crime are the most common and how often they are prosecuted.
In 2020, the government promised to create a dedicated Wildlife Crime Unit at the NPWS but a highly-critical review in 2022 found it was in place but not sufficiently resourced to function. In February 2022, it emerged that only one person had been allocated to the unit.
Following the review, the unit was disbanded in what experts called a u-turn but the Minister for Heritage characterised as a restructuring. In July 2023, he said that the “overwhelming majority” of 46 commitments made to protecting wildlife were on track.
Through press and Freedom of Information (FOI) requests as well as by speaking to experts we will scrutinise government commitments to find out what progress has actually been made.
We will also examine whether the NPWS Conservation Rangers and the gardaí have enough resources to effectively protect our wildlife.
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