A lifeline for Europe’s endangered animals

A TV show on Sunday looks at efforts to save endangered animals across Europe - including an Irish bird
A lifeline for Europe’s endangered animals

NATURE TRAIL: Derek Mooney presents the documentary Back From The Brink on RTE1 tomorrow

FROM rare sea birds in Ireland to birds of prey in Rome, from bats in Switzerland to — yes! — hamsters in Germany, Europe has a bewildering array of wondrous animals.

We live in troubled times for the natural world, but all across the continent, attempts are being made to conserve various species for future generations.

We get to see some of those conservation programmes when Back From The Brink, hosted by Derek Mooney, returns on RTÉ1 tomorrow at 6.30pm.

Produced in collaboration with the European Broadcasting Union and building on the success of the original Back From The Brink documentary in 2019, it will feature uplifting and inspirational conservation stories spanning the breadth of Europe.

Here in Ireland, the focus is on the beautiful Roseate Tern, one of Europe’s rarest seabirds. The largest European breeding colony is situated on tiny Rockabill Island, off the coast of north Co. Dublin, where a team of wardens from BirdWatch Ireland, led by Dr Stephen Newton, conserve and monitor the vital population of these very vulnerable birds.

Thanks to round-the-clock protection and special nesting boxes, the Rockabill tern project has gone from strength to strength and is helping to repopulate other parts of Europe with the birds.

In Northern Ireland, we see how natural foes have become unwitting allies, as the dramatic recovery of the predatory Pine Marten is changing the fortunes of the threatened Red Squirrel by pushing out the invasive non-native Grey.

In doing so, the Pine Marten is also helping to restore woodland ecosystems damaged by the presence of the Greys.

Off the coast of Scotland, we see efforts to tag and track the second-largest fish in the world, the mighty Basking Shark, in the hopes of learning more about their movements and, in particular, their mysterious breeding behaviour.

Also, conservationists in Rome show how even the threatened Peregrine Falcon, the fastest animal on the planet, has recovered from near-disastrous population declines to thrive in this busy city.

In The Netherlands, conservation measures to provide safe city-centre nesting sites for the Common Swift have at long last been helping these amazing migratory birds to live up to their name and once again become common.

Our cities, too, can and should be havens for bats, as the efforts to protect vulnerable populations of nocturnal Vesper Bats in the town of Bellinzona in Switzerland demonstrate.

As for those hamsters, conservationists in Bavaria have been trialling ways to restore the native wild European Hamsters’ habitats to ensure these rodents get food and shelter.

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