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Reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to the Republic of Ireland: A case study of media coverage

  • Birdwatch Ireland

Abstract and Figures

Media can be important in the success or failure of conservation projects. This study examined newspaper coverage of the white-tailed eagle reintroduction to the Republic of Ireland to examine public awareness and attitudes towards the project, and the resultant influence on changes to national legislation and the likely success of the project in the future. National, local newspaper and a special-interest farming newspaper articles, from 2007-2011, were categorised as 'positive', 'negative' or 'ambiguous' according to their portrayal of eagles. Media coverage in terms of the number and valence of articles published is discussed in the context of key events during the study period, namely poisoning incidents, increased stakeholder engagement and changes to national legislation. The eagles received considerable newspaper coverage: most articles were in 2007, the first year of white-tailed eagle reintroduction, and 2010, when the issue of poisoning was finally addressed in Irish legislation. Articles were mostly positive while project staff engaged with media throughout the study period providing updates, condemning poisonings and responding to misinformation published. The future prospects for the project seemed positive, with appropriate newspaper coverage and information relating to legislative changes to benefit white-tailed eagles and several other species.
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Irish Geography 95
Reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to the Republic of
Ireland: A case study of media coverage
Brian J. Burkea, Aibhlin Finna, David T. Flanagana, Danielle M. Fogartya, Maeve
Forana, John D. O’Sullivana, Shaun A. Smitha, John D. C. Linnellb, Barry J.
aUCD School of Agriculture & Food Science, University College Dublin, Ireland,
bNorwegian Institute for Nature Research, NO-7485 Trondheim, Norway
Media can be important in the success or failure of conservation projects. This
study examined newspaper coverage of the white-tailed eagle reintroduction
to the Republic of Ireland to examine public awareness and attitudes towards
the project, and the resultant inuence on changes to national legislation and
the likely success of the project in the future. National, local newspaper and a
special-interest farming newspaper articles, from 2007-2011, were categorised
as ‘positive’, ‘negative’ or ‘ambiguous’ according to their portrayal of eagles.
Media coverage in terms of the number and valence of articles published is
discussed in the context of key events during the study period, namely poisoning
incidents, increased stakeholder engagement and changes to national legislation.
The eagles received considerable newspaper coverage: most articles were in
2007, the rst year of white-tailed eagle reintroduction, and 2010, when the
issue of poisoning was nally addressed in Irish legislation. Articles were mostly
positive while project staff engaged with media throughout the study period
providing updates, condemning poisonings and responding to misinformation
published. The future prospects for the project seemed positive, with appropriate
newspaper coverage and information relating to legislative changes to benet
white-tailed eagles and several other species.
Keywords: human-wildlife conict; reintroduction; agriculture; conservation
Public participation and acceptance can be an important determinant of the success
of a wildlife management and conservation project (Kellert et al. 1996, Kleiven
et al. 2004). In many cases, conservation and reintroduction projects have failed
not because of ecological reasons, but due to accidental or deliberate human-
induced mortality. The importance of media in the success of reintroduction
projects is obvious given its explicit positioning in the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reintroduction guidelines (IUCN/SSC 2013). The
reasons for negative reactions from the public are diverse and may reect issues
such as previous experience of negative impacts from the species in question, wider
social and political conicts for which the species may become symbolic, or simply
* Corresponding author. Email:
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B. Burke
a lack of knowledge leading to perceived conict (Redpath et al. 2013). Attempts
to reintroduce wolves in North America in the 1970s were unsuccessful due to
persistent poaching, with the wolves’ tendency to scavenge possibly resulting in
them being blamed for far more predation than they actually commit (Kellert et al.
1996). Studies in Norway similarly attribute at least some of the high level of fear
associated with wolves (and other carnivores) to a lack of knowledge about their
ecology and behaviour (Kleiven et al. 2004). Studies of people’s perceptions of the
highly threatened Eurasian lynx found an overall lack of both scientic and local
knowledge of the species, which had led to myths and rumours, and ultimately a
negative attitude towards the lynx. Such speculation and misinformation about the
harmfulness of the lynx amongst the people who share the landscape with it is a
signicant obstacle to their conservation, meaning poaching in the area is likely
to continue unless attitudes can be changed. Interestingly, those most appreciative
of the lynx were also the ones most knowledgeable about the species – local
hunters, who encountered the animal more frequently than the general public,
but importantly who obtained most of their knowledge from hunting books and
magazines (Lescureux et al. 2011). Scientists and conservationists are becoming
increasingly aware of the impact that media attention can have on public perceptions
of environmental and conservation topics. It has been shown that mass media is
often the public’s primary source of ‘scientic’ knowledge (Boykoff and Rajan
2007). Media professionals decide what topics to cover and how much coverage
to devote to each topic, so the frequency and content of scientic, environmental
and conservation information that reaches the public is largely determined by
the media, directly inuencing public knowledge, awareness and support and
the success of individual conservation programmes as a result (Jacobson et al.
2011). In cases where human-wildlife conict arises, the media can sometimes
seek to highlight and sensationalise the conict, which can present difculties
for those trying to minimise the conict or work with opposing parties (Barua
2010, Redpath et al. 2013). Gamson and Modigliani (1989) point out that the
relationship between the media and public opinion is not unidirectional with each
system interacting with the other – media discourse helps individuals to construct
meaning, but public opinion is also a part of the process by which journalists and
media outlets ‘develop and crystallise meaning in public discourse’. With that in
mind, coverage by media that caters for different audiences (regional, national,
special-interest groups) will both inuence how targeted the dissemination of
information is, and indicate how relevant the issues are at various scales (e.g.
locally relevant, nationally relevant, of widespread relevance to specic groups).
In addition, changing media discourse over time provides a context for interpreting
key events, successes or setbacks, over the period examined. Consequently, there
is a great need to accumulate case studies of how the various media portray
wildlife conservation projects, particularly those that are controversial or that
involve an element of human-wildlife conict, and how this portrayal contributes
to and reects the public discourse and the policy context of conservation. In
this case study, we examine how the media have portrayed the reintroduction of
et al.
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Irish Geography 97
a large raptor into Ireland, and how this has interacted with crucial policy areas,
namely the legislation concerning the use of poison.
The study system – returning white-tailed eagles to Ireland
The white-tailed eagle Haliaeetus albicilla is a large raptor, native to Northern
Europe and Asia. They nest near large lakes or on the coast and have a varied
diet, usually sh and birds, but also scavenging on carrion (Birdlife International
2002). They are protected under European Law, listed on Annex I of the EU’s
Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), under the Bern Convention (Appendix II), under
Section 22 of the Wildlife Act (1976) and by the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000
in the Republic of Ireland. As a result of human persecution through egg and
skin collecting, shooting and poisoning by gamekeepers, and wider environmental
destruction and pollution, white-tailed eagle numbers declined throughout Europe
in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They were formerly widespread and
numerous along Ireland’s west coast, and have left a rich cultural history there
(Evans et al. 2012). Persecution ultimately led to their extinction in Ireland, with
the last known nests recorded in Mayo and Kerry in 1898 (Ussher and Warren
A collaborative project to reintroduce white-tailed eagles to Ireland began in
2006 between the Golden Eagle Trust Ltd. (an Irish non-government organisation)
and the state-run Irish National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS). Its aim
was ‘to re-establish a viable self-sustaining breeding population of sea eagles in
south-west Ireland after an absence of 110 years’ (Mee 2009). Similar projects
in Scotland had earlier proven successful and an early evaluation of available
habitat, a key IUCN criteria to be met in reintroduction projects, and the number
of individuals needed for a self-sustaining population, gave optimistic indications
that the project could succeed (Nygård et al. 2010). Killarney National Park in
County Kerry, located in the south-west of Ireland, was chosen as the release
site and endorsed as an ideal habitat by Norwegian sea eagle experts from whom
birds where to be sourced (Halley et al. 2006). Furthermore, Killarney Town
Council, Chamber of Commerce and Tourism and several local businesses backed
the project. As well as the environmental, conservation and biodiversity-related
benets of re-establishing the eagles to part of their former range where other top
ecosystem predators are lacking, the presence of the birds was also expected to
benet the local tourism sector. Killarney National Park is a designated Special
Protection Area (EU Birds Directive 2009/147/EC), Special Area of Conservation
(EU Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC) and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It is also in
close proximity to the Dingle, Iveragh and Beara peninsulas on the Atlantic coast,
which the eagles were expected to use in the breeding season. The main land-
use in the area is upland sheep grazing. Local farmers expressed concern at the
reintroduction project on the basis that they believed that eagles would kill lambs,
and protested at Kerry airport in 2007 as the rst batch of eagles arrived. In total,
100 newly-hatched birds have been released in Killarney from summer 2007 to
summer 2011 (Mee 2012).
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B. Burke
Given that white-tailed eagles reach maturity at around ve years old, the
rst white-tailed eagle breeding attempts in Ireland did not occur until 2012, as
expected (Nygård et al. 2010), with the rst successful edging of chicks in 2013,
meaning it is still too early to deem the project a success. Although the initial
results are promising, twenty-four of the 100 birds released had been recovered
dead by November 2012 and this is a serious cause for concern. The majority of
mortalities were human-induced (Nygård et al. 2010). A total of 11 birds were
conrmed to have died from poisoning, two from wind-turbine collisions, and
the rest for reasons unknown (Nygård et al. 2010, Mee 2012). Given white-
tailed eagle life history strategies, this level of human-induced mortality could
potentially have a serious negative effect on the viability of the future population
in Ireland (Evans et al. 2009). Awareness and attitudes towards these issues in
the media could inuence the public’s view of the acceptability of these human-
induced mortalities. This includes whether farmers will continue to use illegal
poisons at their own discretion or if their actions should be changed to incorporate
eagle’s interests. Given the role of media in spreading awareness and both
inuencing and reecting the public attitudes towards such issues, this study set
out to examine national and local newspaper coverage of the white-tailed eagle
reintroduction project in the Republic of Ireland, from 2007 to 2011. We examine
the evolving discourses around the reintroduction of the eagles and related issues
in the newspaper media during that time.
Data collation
Broadsheet and tabloid newspapers with national, regional and special-interest
readerships were searched based primarily on circulation gures for the period
of study (1st January 2007 to 31st December 2011). Broadsheets tend to have
traditional content whereas tabloids tend to have a more extravagant style of
reporting. National and regional newspapers were examined to determine how the
white-tailed eagles were portrayed and viewed both in the project area and across
Ireland, the latter being signicant due to the highly mobile nature of the species
and the expectation that they would travel through and eventually establish in
a number of counties outside Kerry and south-west Ireland. The Irish Farmers
Journal (IFJ), as a special-interest newspaper, should indicate how the species is
portrayed to, and viewed by Irish farmers, with whom potential conict is most
likely and to whom poisonings have already been attributed.
The Irish Independent (daily Monday to Saturday) and Sunday Independent
(both broadsheet) had average circulation gures per issue of 148,655 and 268,959
respectively – higher than any other national broadsheet newspaper (NNI 2012).
The Irish Examiner was the second national daily broadsheet newspaper chosen
for study, with circulation gures of 49,608 per issue from 2007 to 2011 (NNI
2012). Although the Irish Examiner is a national newspaper, it has traditionally
been most read in the region into which the eagles were reintroduced. Articles
for the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and Irish Examiner were found
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Irish Geography 99
by searching the newspapers’ ofcial websites, and www., for the terms ‘sea eagle’ and ‘white-tailed eagle’, with results
further rened for relevance.
The Irish Daily Star (Monday to Saturday) is the highest circulating tabloid in
the Republic of Ireland, with average daily gures for 2007 to 2010 of 102,190
(NNI 2012). Circulation for its Sunday equivalent, The Irish Daily Star Sunday,
was not the highest for Sunday tabloid publications (60,563 average from 2007
to 2009), but this paper was included to give continuity to the analyses (NNI
2012). Because the Irish Star has no online database, articles were identied by
manually checking through microlms at the National Library of Ireland (Dublin).
No microlms were available for the Daily Star for 2011 or for the Sunday Star
for 2010 or 2011, and articles from these periods were excluded from analysis.
The Kerryman, a weekly newspaper based in Co. Kerry where the white-tailed
eagles were released, is one of Ireland’s best-selling regional newspapers with
19,886 papers sold weekly in the rst half of 2011 (Press Gazette 2011). Three
different versions are published, for north and south Kerry (both broadsheet) and
the town of Tralee (tabloid). Considering the signicant overlap between them
and the fact that two of the three versions are broadsheet, The Kerryman is treated
as a single broadsheet newspaper in this study, found using the database at www. The Kerryman website was not used because it only granted
access to articles from part of the period studied. Articles repeated in end-of-year
recap sections were excluded. Subsequent research found additional articles
dated 9 June 2010 and 22 July 2009 that were not found in the original search.
These articles were found using the search function on the ofcial Kerryman
website ( The Irish Farmers Journal is the principal farming
publication in Ireland, and sold an average of 69,982 issues per week from 2007
to 2011 (NNI 2012). Due to a lack of access to an online or computer database,
articles were found by searching through hardcopies. ‘Letters to the Editor’ were
deemed worthy of inclusion as the newspapers chose to publish them, but were
not obliged to do so, and thus reect on the media’s policy.
Articles were assigned valence categories of ‘positive’, ‘negative’ or
‘ambiguous’, depending on how they portrayed the eagles. Articles were
deemed positive if they focused on their benets to Ireland and Kerry in terms of
biodiversity and tourism, if the eagles were described with favourable adjectives
(e.g. ‘majestic’, ‘beautiful’, etc.), if the eagles were mentioned as an intrinsic part
of the Kerry and Killarney landscape (e.g. ‘...soaring above the mountains and
valleys…’) or if their poisoning was portrayed as a loss or an illegal activity. If the
article did not contain any of these positive portrayals, but also did not mention
any negative aspects of the eagles or their presence, and just reported on a recent
poisoning, then the article was deemed to be positive, because it was highlighting
poisoning as a problem. Articles deemed negative were those that focused on the
potential and probable likelihood of the eagles killing lambs or which portrayed
them as an overall menacing and unwelcome addition to the countryside. Some
articles contained both explicitly positive and explicitly negative portrayals of
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B. Burke
the eagles, and such articles were described as ‘ambiguous’. Articles were not
assigned to random subsamples but coded for each article found for the Irish
Farmers Journal, the Irish Daily Star and Irish Daily Star Sunday. A subsample
of articles was coded to set the coding protocol. One person then coded the
remaining sample of articles after agreement on denitions was reached (Gore et
al. 2005). In addition, throughout the study, there were regular consultations to
standardise article categorisations. This classication is highly interpretable given
that there were only three categorisations.
Statistical analysis
Independent explanatory variables of newspaper type, format and date were
used, as was the dependent explanatory variable of valence. The overall valence
of the articles was analysed using two-way contingency tables. Chi-squares
were calculated for the three explanatory variables. Two-way and three-way
contingency tables were formed to obtain count and frequency distributions for
all article valence levels for type, format and date (Knuth and Nielsen 1986).
Generalised linear models (GLMs) were used to test for the signicance of
explanatory variables and all interactions with valence. Separate models were
formed from the individual two and three-way contingency tables, including and
excluding the interaction among type, format and date. The statistical programme
R version 2.14.1 (2011), the package Visualizing Categorical Data version 1.2-13
(2012) and R-Commander version 1.8-4 (2006) were used to run all contingency
tables, perform chi-square tests and GLM analysis (R Development Core Team
Of the 172 articles analysed, 90.7% were published in broadsheet newspapers
(including the Irish Farmers Journal) and 9.3% in tabloids (Table 1). A total
of 61.6% of articles were published in national newspapers, 29.7% in local
newspapers and 8.7% in special-interest publications. During the 2007-2011
period, 26.2% of articles were published in 2007, 11.6% in 2008, 16.3% in 2009,
35.5% in 2010 and 10.5% in 2011. There was a signicant difference in the
number of articles published by national newspapers compared to local or special-
interest publications 2 = 73.2674, df = 2, P < 0.0001). Similarly, there was a
signicant division in the valence of articles produced over the ve-year period
2 = 24.15, df = 8, P < 0.01). In particular, there were more negative (15.6%)
and ambiguous (15.6%) articles published during 2007 than any other subsequent
year. The number of positive articles published in 2010 was signicantly higher
than in other years (z = 2.496, df = 166, P = 0.013). Special-interest publications
were also shown to publish a higher percentage of negative articles (33.3% versus
2.8% and 2% respectively) than national or local newspapers (z = -2.934, P <
0.001). The number of positive articles did not signicantly differ between local
and national newspapers, nor did the number of ambiguous articles signicantly
differ between local, national or specialised publications.
et al.
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Irish Geography 101
Table 1. Two-way contingency table depicting the total percentage of articles for each
valence (Negative, Positive and Ambiguous) for the three newspaper types (Local,
National and Special-interest Publication).
Valence (% Articles)
Newspaper Type Negative Positive Ambiguous Count (n=172)
Local 2.0 88.2 9.8 51
National 2.8 94.3 2.8 106
Publication 33.3 46.7 20.0 15*
* A total of 4 out of 15 articles were ‘Letters to the Editor’
Table 2. Frequency and percentages of the valence (Negative, Positive, Positive and
Negative) of articles found in Local, National and Special-interest Publication newspapers
in the Republic of Ireland differentiated by year, 2007 to 2011.
Frequency and Percentages
Type Valence 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
3 (6.7%)
15 (33.3%)
2 (4.4%)
21 (75%)
1 (3.6%)
1 (2.2%)
16 (35.6%)
3 (6.7%)
1 (5%)
6 (21.4%)
1 (1.6%)
3 (6.7%)
2 (4.4%)
1 (5%)
2 (3.3%)
6 (9.9%)
1 (1.6%)
Count (n=172) 45 20 28 61 18
Table 1 was used to calculate the signicant differences between newspapers
excluding year from the analysis while Table 2 includes the year in a three-way
contingency table. Figure 1 displays the differentiation in article valence between
newspaper types, highlighting the occurrence of positive articles in the national
and local press with a more balanced distribution of positive, ambiguous and
negative coverage in specialised publications.
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B. Burke
Figure 1. Total percentages of positive, ambiguous and negative articles for the three
newspaper types (National, Local and Special-Interest Publication).
Effect of distance
Local and national newspapers published a high number of positive articles about
the eagles, implying an overall approval of the reintroduction. However, negative
media coverage was observed before and after the initial releases. More ambiguous
articles were published in local newspapers compared to negative articles (ve
versus one respectively), conrming that proximity to the species resulted in
greater emphasis on associated risk but did not lead to the presentation of only
negative aspects. Similar results relating to Florida panthers Puma concolor coryi
have also been documented (Jacobson et al. 2011), where despite high numbers
of local articles mentioning the risk of predation or attack, the overall emphasis
was that the objectively assessed risk was low. Many studies that focused on other
carnivores have found similar results (Karlsson and Sjöström 2007, Dandy et al.
2012). Bandara and Tisdell (2003) and Stronen et al. (2007) propose that public
belief, and as a consequence attitudes, will be affected by the individual’s rural
proximity and connection to practical land management (Dandy et al. 2012). This
is clearly evident in the nding that the special-interest stakeholder publication,
the Irish Farmers Journal, had the highest frequency of negative and ambiguous
articles (combined 9 out of 15 articles). The main readership of this newspaper
includes farmers and land management professionals, and it is visibly skewed
in presenting the risk factors relating to eagles and depredation on livestock
over positive aspects of the birds. However, there was a decline in the number
of negative articles after 2007, with no negative articles published in any of the
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Irish Geography 103
three newspaper types in 2008. The majority of the negative articles in 2007 were
featured during the months of January to June, before the eagles were reintroduced,
and again in the rst half of 2010. Fear of sheep depredation was the dominant
topic in negative articles, and the timing of these articles might be expected to
peak around lambing season (i.e. January and March to April). Another factor
that could be considered is the period of poisonings, many occurring just prior to
and during lambing season, when fear of depredation would be highest. However,
poisonings were deemed and claimed to be accidental, resulting from the use of
baited carcasses intended to target other predator species such as red foxes Vulpes
vulpes or corvids. One of the released eagles was conrmed or presumed dead
in 2007, three in 2008, ve in 2009 (Nygård et al. 2010), six in 2010 and four
in 2011 (Mee 2012). At the same time the number of negative articles published
decreased. The Irish Farmers Journal published only one article about the eagles
between June 2007 and February 2010 when there was somewhat of a resurgence
in negativity as farmers wrote letters defending their need to use poisons, with
birds of prey a seemingly acceptable casualty in their attempts to control foxes and
corvids. Of the four eagles that died in 2011, two died from collisions with wind
turbines, and toxicology analyses on the other two found no traces of poisoning,
so the lack of conrmed poisonings probably explains the lack of negative articles
in that year. Possibly due to the confusion originally surrounding legal and illegal
poisons methods, an improved awareness of more targeted predator control has
helped to improve the overall survival and stakeholder appreciation of the eagles.
Public awareness and appreciation
The majority of the positive articles portrayed the eagles as ‘great’, ‘magnicent’,
of ‘enormous benet’ and ‘gracing the coasts’ (e.g. Hickey 2010, McCarthy
2011). Similarly, many articles romanticise them as deeply interlinked with Irish
culture and mythology (The Kerryman 2009). Images were used in numerous
articles, many showing the eagles in full ight over the lakes and mountains of
south-west Ireland, further-emphasising their beauty and showing them as an
intrinsic part of the landscape (Lucey 2009). Furthermore, the fact that they are
a large air-borne species, clearly visible from the ground and were released close
to Killarney, a part of the country with a signicant population of both residents
and tourists at any given time, helps to illustrate their beauty to the public. Both
their positive depiction in the media, and the fact that they are easily noticeable
and recognisable has undoubtedly helped ease their integration into both their new
surroundings and into the consciousness of the public in Kerry and throughout
Ireland. Indeed, sightings have been submitted by members of the public from
almost every county in Ireland (Golden Eagle Trust 2012). Many of those who
were previously sceptical of their reintroduction have developed an appreciation
for them as an important part of Kerry, with a sense of ownership developing,
noticeable in the lack of negative articles published locally in both The Kerryman
and the Irish Examiner since their initial release (Hogan 2010a).
This positive image should not be taken for granted, however. The sense of
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B. Burke
appreciation, ownership and concern over the fate of the eagles developed since
their reintroduction can be put into stark contrast with other species of conservation
concern in the same parts of Kerry over which the eagles now y. Many other
species facing threats are not portrayed as well in the media. The Kerry Slug
Geomalacus maculosus, a protected species in Ireland under the EU Habitats
Directive and mainly found in the Kerry region, received news coverage in 2007
because of a proposed motorway bypass that was due to be constructed through
much of its habitat. A Special Area of Conservation was designated to protect any
damage to the slug or its habitat, a decision that proved to be highly controversial.
The Irish Independent (2007) quoted a local politician as stating that ‘people
should come before snails’ and that the slug should be ‘uprooted’ and ‘moved’
somewhere else, showing little concern or affection for the species. Similarly, the
natterjack toad Epidalea calamita and the marsh fritillary buttery Euphydryas
aurinia have also come into negative light. It was reported that the Government
is spending nearly €110,000 on studying both species (Irish Independent 2012).
A letter published in the Sunday Independent (2012) argued that the money could
be spent on employing teachers, nurses or doctors. Reactions to national frog and
bat surveys indicate a similar lack of appreciation for other species native to,
and currently present in, Ireland but in need of conservation attention, with the
decision to allocate money for the surveys labelled ‘ridiculous’ and ‘outrageous’
(Irish Independent 2010, Hogan 2010b). Indeed, any sympathy for species less
charismatic and photogenic than the recently reintroduced white-tailed eagles,
golden eagles Aquila chrysaetos or red kite Milvus milvus is hard to come by within
the Irish media. This is possibly a reection of a similar lack of concern amongst
the general public or may suggest that those opposed to conservation efforts go
unchallenged in the media. Again, the easily-seen and noticed white-tailed eagles
offer a contrast with the fact that only a small minority of the Irish population are
likely to have ever seen a Kerry slug or natterjack toad in their lifetime, and were
probably disinterested or unable to identify them as anything more than a ‘slug’
or ‘frog’. The monetary costs of surveying and protecting the aforementioned
species is considerably smaller than that associated with reintroducing birds of
prey, yet the raptor projects seem to have elicited a much more positive response
(Hogan 2010b, Golden Eagle Trust 2012). With this in mind, it seems likely that
future reintroduction or conservation initiatives could rally public and political
support if the presence and plight of the species involved is presented obviously
to the public. Increased attention in the print media and perhaps with television
programmes similar to those that documented the raptor reintroductions (e.g. The
Eagles Return or Living with Wildlife on RTE), as well as helping the public to see
and notice the species in situ should help foster a sense of ownership and concern
for endangered species similar to that which has developed for the white-tailed
eagle. The intrinsic value as well as economic value of biodiversity, e.g. provision
of ecosystem functions, needs to be effectively communicated to the Irish public if
there is to be an understanding that investing in a national bat survey, for example,
is money well spent. Biodiversity is worth an estimated €2.6 billion per annum to
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Irish Geography 105
the Irish economy (DoEHLG 2008) and this is possibly a gross underestimation.
White-tailed eagle watching alone is worth at least €6 million to the Island of Mull
in Scotland annually (RSPB 2011) and such information has undoubtedly played a
part in the way the tourism-savvy people of Kerry have embraced the return of the
eagle. These gures are rarely featured in the media, but emphasising the tourism
and economic potential of conservation should also be conveyed to the public to
aid the success of similar future projects.
The importance of building a positive media presence and dialogue with
The reintroduction project gained extensive regional and national coverage,
most of which was positive (88.2% and 94.3% respectively). Positive local and
national coverage are important for the long-term future of the population given
that white-tailed eagles are a highly mobile species and while many are expected
to nest and breed in Killarney, Kerry and nearby Cork, suitable habitat and nesting
sites exist all along the west coast, the River Shannon and in other parts of the
country. To date, GPS data and public sightings have seen individuals recorded
in almost every county in Ireland on exploratory ights (Mee 2012). The rst
documented nesting and breeding attempt of the birds was conrmed in April
2012 in Co. Clare, along the Shannon valley but further north than Co. Kerry.
The information spread as a result of the national media coverage is invaluable
to ensure the birds are welcomed rather than persecuted when they disperse from
Kerry. The nesting pair in Mountshannon received considerable positive attention,
both within the media and from nature enthusiasts and curious locals. The local
Community Council, as well as local angling and gun clubs all offered help and
messages of goodwill, but their co-operation or even an acknowledgement of the
birds’ presence would likely have been less certain had the national media not
been covering the white-tailed eagle reintroduction for several years previously,
and in a mostly positive way. Conveying the tourism benets seen in Killarney
and Kerry since their release is likely to have helped guarantee their welcome
in Clare. There was a similarly positive media response when two eagle chicks
edged in July 2013. In contrast, local gun clubs in Kerry closer to the original
release date were among the sea eagles’ worst detractors with fears that they might
impact on pheasant numbers (O’Rourke 2014).
The reintroduction project staff clearly monitored the newspaper and media
coverage of the white-tailed eagle closely. Most articles at both local and national
level, and some in the Irish Farmers Journal, directly quoted the project manager,
Dr Alan Mee, who was able to offer rst-hand updates on the eagles’ progress
and to discuss any potential controversy, condemn poisonings (Hughes 2010a)
and ensure the communication of responsible information. As well as providing
information and interviews, he directly contributed some articles (Mee 2010).
Similarly, BirdWatch Ireland’s Raptor Conservation Ofcer was on hand to write
a letter asking the Irish Farmers Journal to retract a piece which they had featured
that informed readers that baiting meat with poison could be used to control
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predators (Lusby 2010).
A crucial aspect of any conservation plan is the identication and consultation
of stakeholders prior to any formal management plans being put in place (Riley and
Decker 2000). Furthermore, any emerging conicts should be quickly addressed,
particularly in a situation such as this where the risks were high (Redpath et al.
2013) and the white-tailed eagle population vulnerable to extinction again if
the matter was not resolved. One of the major fears of these individual farmers
and the Irish Farmers’ Association was the possible depredation of lambs, but a
report commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage (Simms et al. 2010) showed
that only a minuscule number of lamb deaths could be attributed directly to the
eagles (<2% of deaths) in Scotland. Further research into uctuations in lamb
depredation is on-going, but to date no Irish lambs have been depredated by
white-tailed eagles. However, it has been found elsewhere that in cases of human-
wildlife conict people’s perception of risk is as important as actual losses and
so ongoing communication with stakeholders and the provision of information
can be vital in minimising conservation conict (Naughton-Treves and Treves
2005). If conservation plans are to be managed efciently, all stakeholders must
be involved and informed of the potential ecological and livelihood effects of
reintroduced species (Siemer et al. 2007). Riley and Decker (2000) found that the
majority of professional stakeholders’ concerns were not dealt with in relation to
conservation management of cougar populations in Montana and that managers
‘did not listen’.
The Irish Farmers Journal published no relevant articles from July 2010
onwards, with the exception of an article published on 11 February 2011 entitled
‘Wildlife & Hill Sheep Farming – a mutually benecial coexistence’ which
demonstrated that through the reintroduction, an understanding and respect
had developed between those involved in the project and sheep farmers. This
engagement between stakeholders facilitated the development of trust between the
parties. Meetings between Teagasc (The Irish Agricultural and Food Development
Association), the Irish Farmers’ Association, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers
Association, the Departments of Environment and Agriculture and the Golden
Eagle Trust began on 8 June 2010, which seems to indicate that these talks were
productive in terms of reaching a common understanding with regards to the
eagles’ presence and future (Hughes 2010b). This led to the formation of the
Kerry Sustainable Rural Environment Group to address future eagle mortalities in
Kerry and to reduce poisoning risk by promoting alternative predator management
methods. Dialogue between stakeholder groups can help forge good-quality
agreements and improve relationships, but good quality information must be
provided to participants in order to maximise the effectiveness of that engagement
and any future working relationship (Emerson et al. 2009, Redpath et al. 2013).
Thus, the project staff’s ongoing interactions with the media as well as the
information campaign borne from meetings between the stakeholders involved
in the aforementioned meetings are likely to have improved attitudes of farmers
in Kerry and further aeld towards the eagles, as can be seen in the reduction in
et al.
volume.indd 106 21/01/2015 12:41
Irish Geography 107
negative articles in the Irish Farmers Journal in recent years. It can only be of
benet to have all stakeholders supporting a project (Gusset et al. 2008).
Management of human-wildlife conicts often depends on a cross-disciplinary
approach (Redpath et al. 2013), utilised to good effect here not just in the project
staff’s engagement with the media and dialogue with farmers, but in their framing
of the cause of the conict. Throughout the study period the conservationists were
careful to communicate the fact that the poisonings at the heart of the conict were
likely to be unintentional and the result of out-dated practices of predator control,
rather than to farmers intentionally and illegally targeting the eagles, allowing for a
collaborative approach to help reach a joint solution. Some of the earlier poisonings
had resulted in a very negative light being shone on farmers and farming practices
in Kerry, with a growing anti-farmer sentiment amongst conservationists and the
general public, turning farmers who were initially indifferent to the eagles against
them (O’Rourke 2014). Had the project staff allowed this adversarial approach
from the conservationist side (and general public) to continue and made stark
accusations against farmers, it would likely have resulted in both parties becoming
increasingly polarised in their views for and against the eagles and it seems
unlikely that a cooperative solution could have been reached. A similar ‘blame
game’ mentality has been common between the farming lobby, environmental
NGO’s and the relevant state agencies in Ireland in the past, resulting in a lack of
trust and co-operation, and ultimately, a poor track record on issues of sustainable
development and environmental policy in this country (Flynn 2007). Thus, the
early framing of the conict as one that needed a joint solution, rather than as an
adversarial win/lose scenario, pitting conservationists and farmers against each
other, allowed for meaningful dialogue between the two parties that would go on
to help improve cooperation and minimise conict.
Legislation related to use of poison
The white-tailed eagle reintroduction has brought, or looks likely to deliver, the
benets expected when the project was rst proposed. It has enhanced Ireland’s
biodiversity, helping to full the country’s commitments under the Convention
on Biological Diversity and the EU Habitats Directive, as well as enhancing the
tourism potential of Killarney, Co. Kerry and Ireland as a whole by reinforcing
the image of the natural and ‘green’ Irish countryside and allowing for the
possibility of eagle-watching ‘safaris’. It has also had the added bonus of bringing
attention to the issue of indiscriminate, non-targeted poisoning in Ireland which
has undoubtedly been aficting raptor and carnivorous mammal populations for
decades, not to mention being a distressing source of mortality among pet dogs.
Farmers (particularly sheep farmers), in an attempt to control foxes and corvids,
which they believe is necessary to protect sheep and new born lambs, lace meat
baits or dead sheep carcasses with large doses of highly-toxic compounds such as
carbofuran, alphachloralose or nitroxynil (normally used to treat liver uke) and
leave them in an open area to be found and eaten by pest species. Presumably,
other non-target species are poisoned including birds of prey, pine martens Martes
volume.indd 107 21/01/2015 12:41
B. Burke
martes and other animals protected under the Irish Wildlife Act 1976, Amendment
Act 2000 and the EU Habitats Directive [92/43/EEC], but evidence of such is very
hard to gather. The white-tailed eagle is a known scavenger and some individuals
inevitably found and fed on these poisoned baits soon after their reintroduction.
All of the eagles were tted with solar-powered GPS transmitters upon release and
so could be located when continuous stationary radio or GPS-xes indicated that
they were injured or dead. Toxicology analyses found signicant levels of poisons
in the dead eagles, conrming poisons as the cause of death. These poisonings
received much attention in the newspapers examined here, with many featuring
pictures of the reintroduction project manager and lab technicians holding up the
body of poisoned eagles. Similar articles and pictures featured the reintroduced
red kites and golden eagles, both species that have fallen victim to similar
poisonings. Between November 2007 and June 2010 eight white-tailed eagles
were conrmed to have been poisoned using the chemicals mentioned, with each
death given considerable media attention and condemned not only by the Golden
Eagle Trust, BirdWatch Ireland and the NPWS, but by local politicians, tourism
chiefs and local hotel owners, the ministers for agriculture and the environment,
and by the Norwegian Ambassador to Ireland (the country from which the
eagles were sourced). The involvement of Norwegian politicians provoked the
headline ‘Stop poisoning our eagles’ in the Irish Independent (Hogan 2010a)
and the Ambassador was quoted as saying ‘We in Norway are deeply concerned
about the situation and hope that all can be done to make such poisoning illegal’.
The Department of the Environment made legislative changes in 2008 to ban
the use of meat-baits to poison corvids and other bird species, S.I. No.252 of
2008 European Communities (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies and
Animal By-Products) Regulations 2008, but this did not affect poison laid with
the intention of controlling red foxes – a loophole which allowed the continued
use of poison and maintained the threat to birds of prey. In December 2009, the
Golden Eagle Trust submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission
(the agency responsible for implementing the Habitats Directive) that allowing
the use of meat baits to poison red foxes, without having sufcient safeguards to
prevent non-target poisoning of birds of prey, contravened Articles 4 and 9 of the
EU’s Birds Directive, given that discriminate alternatives such as shooting, live-
trapping and deterrents (e.g. electric fencing, increased lighting, radio noise) are
available. They added that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
was failing to implement cross compliance measures (complying with the Birds
Directive) within the Single Farm Payment Scheme (part of the EU Common
Agricultural Policy) because farmers found to have killed an eagle should face
appropriate nancial sanctions. The Irish Raptor Study Group, an unincorporated
group that went on to help form the Golden Eagle Trust, had written to the EU
Environmental Directorate in the late 1990s about the illegal use of poison in
Ireland and its known threat to buzzards (Buteo buteo). They were told that the
apparent permissiveness and non-conformity of Irish legislation would be raised
with the national authorities (Irish Raptor Study Group 2012). Environmental
et al.
volume.indd 108 21/01/2015 12:41
Irish Geography 109
groups in Ireland are generally viewed as politically weak, with little inuence
at governmental level to enact what they see as necessary or benecial changes,
despite having the public good of environmental protection as their focus and
often having considerable scientic evidence and expertise to back up their claims
(Flynn 2007). This is in direct contrast to interest groups like the Irish Farmers’
Association (IFA), whose strong political inuence can be attributed to their interests
being immediate economic ones, i.e. the income of farmers, and their strong and
active organisational structure working the local, national and European levels of
political inuence (Flynn 2007). The vocal condemnation of sea eagle poisonings
by representatives of the tourism sector, a largely neutral/silent player in matters of
conservation in Ireland but one with comparable economic and political inuence
to the farming lobby, cannot be underestimated in its importance in helping to
nally gain the political will for legislative changes regarding the indiscriminate
use of poisons. Similarly, the comments by the Norwegian ambassador are likely
to have caused great concern at a political level that the poisonings would tarnish
Ireland’s reputation abroad as a ‘green’ and unspoilt natural tourist destination,
something that could damage the tourism-dependant local economies of Killarney
and county Kerry as well as have repercussions at a national level.
The media attention given to the white-tailed eagle poisonings and the resultant
pressure from the public, tourism representatives as well as political pressure from
Norway and the EU, led to the poisoning problem being addressed in legislation
in October 2010 with the introduction of Statutory Instrument 481/2010 European
Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) (Restrictions on use of Poisoned Bait)
Regulations 2010. It is now illegal to poison foxes or crows using poisons with
meat, eggs or other animal substances and there are no pesticides registered or
approved for poisoning foxes or birds in the Republic of Ireland. Alphachloralose is
now registered and approved only for the control of mice and rats, the poisoning of
which is still permitted. Special exceptions are only possible with an appropriately
issued license/derogation from the NPWS, and breaking this law can result in nes
of up to €5,000, a twelve-month prison sentence, or both, as well as deduction
of Single Farm Payments. The Golden Eagle Trust had been calling for such
legislative changes for ten years previously (Irish Raptor Study Group 2012) but
the attention brought by the reintroduction and subsequent poisoning of the white-
tailed eagles resulted in the public and political pressure seemingly necessary to
motivate Irish authorities to make the change. This law is expected to benet not
only the white-tailed eagles, but also a range of other species, including red kites
and golden eagles. Heberlien (2012) argues that people should not be relied upon
to change their behaviour based on information alone and that environmental or
contextual ‘xes’, in this case changing the context of the problem by making the
use of indiscriminate poisons illegal, are more effective, with information and
engagement a useful tool to enhance the effectiveness of the contextual change in
resolving the environmental or conservation problem.
Since the introduction of the Statutory Instrument, a number of poisoning
incidents were reported, highlighting that changes to the law are only the rst step
volume.indd 109 21/01/2015 12:41
B. Burke
in tackling this problem (Irish Raptor Study Group 2012). The Departments of
Environment and Agriculture, NPWS, Golden Eagle Trust and regional interest
groups have been making farmers aware of the change to the law as well as
the legal alternative methods of control available (Hickey 2011). In early 2011,
formal protocols for the recording of poisoning of raptors and for the appropriate
toxicology and post-mortem analyses were implemented which should help
enforcement (Irish Raptor Study Group 2012). A report on the white-tailed eagle
reintroduction identied poisoning as being the main threat to reintroduced white-
tailed eagles, as for other raptors in Ireland (Nygård et al. 2010). Conservation
conicts are rarely, if ever, fully resolved to the extent that there is no future
threat of previous conicts continuing to some extent, or re-emerging in the future
(Redpath et al. 2013). The poisoning ban is an important rst step in solving the
problem, aided by the increased co-operation between farming and conservation
bodies (amongst others) seen in recent years, and it is hoped that the benets
will be seen in Ireland’s raptor populations in the near future, although another
problem remains with the risk of secondary poisoning from the consumption
of rodents that have been legally poisoned with rodenticide (Irish Raptor Study
Group 2012, Stone et al. 2003).
There is repeated evidence that newspaper articles and mass media are key
sources of information relating to wildlife management issues (Corbett 1992,
Riley and Decker 2000, Dandy et al. 2012). Gusset et al. (2008) highlight the
need for appropriate positive media coverage to avoid misconceptions in relation
to wildlife conservation, especially when the species is considered potentially
dangerous to humans or livestock. White-tailed eagles are clearly visible from
a distance when ying due to a 1.8 to 2.4 metre wingspan, but actual close
encounters with individuals are quite rare. The majority of the public gain most
of their knowledge of the species through media coverage, which would impact
their perception of such a large bird of prey. This study has found that the white-
tailed eagle reintroduction project has received considerable media coverage since
it began in 2007. The fact that there has been some negative media coverage and
even public protests, especially in the rst years of the project, demonstrates how
controversial any wildlife conservation project can be in some settings, even of
highly charismatic birds like white-tailed eagles. This can be taken as a warning to
all conservation projects to ensure that they engage with stakeholders, the media
and the public before initiating any actions in order to avoid or minimise any
potential conict and to help foster a more cooperative relationship to help deal
with any unforeseen issues that may arise. Encouragingly, the overall trend has
been for an increased frequency of positive articles that seems likely to reect
improved public opinion of the project and the eagles themselves. The project staff
seems to have become effective at engaging with stakeholders directly and with
the wider public through the media, utilising a multi-disciplinary approach early
on to the benet of the reintroduction project. The media also seem to have been
et al.
volume.indd 110 21/01/2015 12:41
Irish Geography 111
providing a well-balanced coverage of the issue and have avoided sensationalising
issues and causing any conicts to escalate. It is still too early to say whether
the project will succeed or fail, but survival rates of reintroduced individuals are
good and the main threat from poisoning has been addressed with a change to
national legislation. In addition, the recent public support for the project as well as
successful breeding attempts by the rst pair in Mountshannon in 2013 and 2014
and the establishment of seven pairs in counties Kerry, Cork, Clare and Galway in
2014, are encouraging signs for the future of the project and for the establishment
of a self-sustaining breeding population of white-tailed eagles in Ireland. One of
the two chicks to edge in 2013 was found dead in March of the following year,
however, having been shot at the north-east end of the same lake from which it
edged, indicating that the threat of persecution, though substantially reduced
since the project began, still remains (Hickey 2014). Given the sensitivity of the
white-tailed eagle population at this stage, efforts to engage and inform farmers
and other stakeholders must continue in an attempt to further reduce this risk, and
to obtain successful prosecutions of those who refuse to acknowledge both the law
and wider public sentiment on the current and future role of white-tailed eagles in
the Irish countryside.
This work derives from M.Sc. studies in Wildlife Conservation and Management
at University College Dublin. The participation of JDCL was nanced by the
Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and the Research Council of Norway.
We would like to thank Allan Mee, Ruth McManus and two anonymous reviewers
for comments on previous versions of the manuscript.
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... Although this re-introduction is considered a conservation success by many, stakeholders including many farmers and crofters argue that the initial reintroduction was carried out without sufficient consultation, and this is now at the root of disputes over the extent to which Whitetailed Eagles impact agricultural productivity and farmers' livelihoods (Young et al. 2016a). The origins of this conflict appear to have been mirrored in the reintroduction of White-tailed Eagle into Ireland (Burke et al. 2014, O'Rourke 2014. ...
Negative interactions between humans and animals are becoming increasingly frequent, as wild habitats shrink and human presence and activities expand throughout the world. Conflicts between people over conservation are one of the outcomes of this increased interaction, with severe consequences for both wildlife and people. Globally, conflicts can arise across diverse ecosystems, species and circumstances. Even if most attention in wildlife‐related conflicts has been on mammals, birds are also often at the centre of such conflicts, but conflict research is still not explicitly present in ornithological literature. Examples of such conflicts include those related to birds and agriculture, forestry, hunting, fishing and public health interests. Conflicts are often more complex than initial assessments might suggest, involving ecological, economic, cultural, social and political elements. Reflecting the complexity of these issues and their increasing relevance to bird conservation, a British Ornithologists' Union conference was organized in November 2021 that aimed to highlight examples of conflicts that exist between people over birds and their conservation. Building on this conference, we provide here a review of key themes relating to the understanding of conflicts, including the importance of conflict perceptions, the collaboration between multiple disciplines and the different types of knowledge needed to better understand conflicts. We then consider the management of bird conservation conflicts, including the key issues of dealing with uncertainty, the role of technical solutions and the importance of collaboration and building trust, illustrating each theme with real‐world examples. Finally, we outline potential future conflicts around bird conservation and how best to address them proactively.
... In South America, condors hold strong cultural and spiritual connections with people in the Andes, as well as significant national emblematic value [30,34,55], and in parts of the USA, Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) are so admired that platforms are erected to encourage their nesting, thereby resulting in often unexpected benefits, such as deterring the predators of livestock [82]. Indeed, there are clear links between raptor-based ecotourism or other cultural services and a potential restoration of ecosystem functions through the encouragement or establishment of birds of prey [61,[83][84][85][86]. Positive perceptions of birds of prey may also support the conservation of wild areas or habitats that are favourable for the birds; for example, the suitability of alfalfa farms for birds of prey has been proposed as an incentive to maintain alfalfa production in the face of pressure from higher value crops [87]. ...
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The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment proposed four categories of ecosystem services as regulating, provisioning, supporting and cultural. Of these, cultural services have been the most difficult to quantify despite playing a key role in developing society’s supporting services to ecosystems. By reviewing a series of case studies related to the cultural services derived from raptors, we examine relations between tangible ecosystem services and ‘knowledge’ and ‘beliefs’ as part of supporting services from human societies to ecosystems. We identified types of raptor regulating and provisioning services and patterns in service--knowledge-beliefs that defined positive or negative outcomes for raptor conservation. We also demonstrate how possible interactions between physical, experiential, physical-symbolic and representative-symbolic cultural services and between different stakeholders can create incentives or obstacles for conservation. Predictable patterns in service-knowledge-beliefs provide a framework upon which socio-cultural and ethnobiological aspects of raptor conservation may be combined with ecological research to support conservation initiatives. Based on these patterns we present examples of how cultural services might be employed to better promote raptor conservation while respecting the beliefs and traditions of stakeholders.
... At the time of writing, a total of 210 groups had been contacted (see One group not included in the consultation directly but nevertheless likely to have an important impact on the outcome is the media (Burke et al., 2014). ...
... We developed a protocol for screening and coding articles following content analysis methodologies of Riffe et al. (1998) and Krippendorff (2004) and protocols examining wildlife-oriented media of Jacobson et al. (2012), Muter et al. (2013), and Burke et al. (2015). For a detailed description of content analysis variables and approach see Supplemental A1. ...
Print and online media may reflect changing perceptions about wildlife when viewed in a historical context, as conservation programs bring about increased awareness of declining species. With a proven history of public misunderstanding and persecution, we focused on a nongame and at-risk species, the hellbender salamander (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis). To determine whether public perceptions of hellbenders change according to societal interests over time and to test Shaw's conservation eras, we conducted a content analysis of 288 newspaper articles over the past 153 years of coverage through Conservation Eras, including: Exploitation (1850–1899), Protection (1900–1929), Game Management (1930–1965), Environmental Management (1966–1979), and Conservation Biology (1980–2016). In addition, we examined trends in more recent online media coverage. As measured by article frame (valence values), we detected an increase in positive perceptions about hellbenders in newspapers after 1980, which coincides with the Conservation Biology Era. Many articles published within the Exploitation Era included informative natural history while articles in the Conservation Biology Era included information about the species decline or efforts to conserve and restore populations. Article frames from the Conservation Biology Era were more positive than any other era (X² = 111.79, p < 0.001). Conservation efforts likely impacted online media coverage (via Google Trends), which increased following the federal listing of Ozark hellbenders and their successful captive rearing by the St. Louis Zoo in 2011. Because knowledge is generated and accessed more readily than ever, and we observed media is representative of societal changes, we anticipate a new era of conservation to follow the digital information age.
... The recovery of raptor populations is often accompanied by concerns relating to potential impacts on conservation (e.g. of prey species or competitors; Moleón et al. 2011), sociology (Burke et al. 2015) or economy (e.g. of game populations; Parrott 2015). Indeed, the recovery of Buzzard populations has been followed by increasing pressure for population control measures to protect game stocks (Lees et al. 2012). ...
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Capsule: Distance sampling identified an increase in estimated population size of Common Buzzards Buteo buteo in central southern England between 2011 and 2016 of more than 50%. The rate of population growth slowed in later years. Aims: To assess the utility of a targeted distance sampling protocol to derive seasonal and annual population estimates for Common Buzzards across an area of southern England. Methods: We used a line transect survey methodology and multiple covariate distance sampling to assess population density and abundance of Common Buzzards in spring and autumn between 2011 and 2016 across a 2600 km² area of central southern England. Results: Estimated population size increased by more than 50%, from approximately 2900 to 4500 individuals, across the period in a trend similar to that shown by Breeding Bird Survey data. Discussion: A slowing of the growth in population size of Common Buzzards in central southern England suggests that the species may be approaching carrying capacity in this area. These results also suggest that currently employed broad scale survey methodologies adequately reflect the general population trends for this species. Our data provide the first published estimates of the Common Buzzard population in central southern England derived from direct empirical assessment.
... Articles were also coded for valence as positive, negative, or ambiguous. Articles focusing on benefits of CTF (e.g. for tourism, gastronomy, conservation, culture), including neutral articles that did not mention any negative aspect and thus did not present CTF as a problem, were recorded as positive unless they contained negative language, or elements of uncertainty (Burke et al., 2015). Articles that outlined various viewpoints were deemed ambiguous whereas controversy portrayed in a one-sided way was deemed negative. ...
Conflicts over natural resource use and management often arise where groups have different goals or priorities. The media can play an important dual role in these conflicts; article content might offer insights about public opinion, whilst media may shape debates and how issues are perceived by the public and decision-makers. Wildlife farming is a contentious conservation tool attracting the attention of worldwide media, and associated conflicts among different interest groups may undermine its applicability. We investigated the media's portrayal of the Cayman Turtle Farm (CTF), a facility in the Cayman Islands which breeds green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) for human consumption, to investigate how the media presents information about wildlife farming (i.e. framing), consider its potential roles influencing conflicts and explore how it can be used for conservation conflict management. Content analysis was used to compare framing, article valence, and stakeholder representation in 634 newspaper articles from the international and local media. These media stories were framed in terms of: tourism, conflict, conservation, culture/community, management, and utilisation. International articles most often described CTF as a tourism facility. However, during a media campaign by an international animal welfare group, CTF was also often depicted as a source of controversy. Trade in turtle products was mostly debated in older articles. Local media mainly had a financial focus. Conflict framing was associated with a negative article valence, and conflict framed articles were significantly more likely to contain no conservation information. Mentions of environmental interest groups were significantly associated with negative articles, whereas academics were significantly more likely to be mentioned in positive articles. Conservationists must consider stakeholder objectives from the outset of interventions and be aware of the multiple roles the media might play. Media analysis and effectively harnessing the potential of media outlets should be considered as tools for managing conservation conflicts.
... Number of pairs refers to territorial (breeding and non-breeding) pairs. several poisoning incidents in the national and local media undoubtedly heightened awareness of the risk the illegal use of poisons continue to pose (Burke et al. 2014). Further, a protocol for processing and reporting raptor mortalities nationally, including poisoning cases, has been established by NPWS since 2011 (see ...
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White-tailed Eagles Haliaeetus albicilla were extirpated as a breeding species in Ireland in the early 20th century following decades of population decline due to human persecution. Preparatory studies including population modelling, site selection and identification of a donor population, resulted in the initiation of a reintroduction programme for the species in the Republic of Ireland. Between 2007 and 2011 one hundred young White-tailed Eagles (51 males and 49 females) were collected from nests in Norway under licence and transported to Ireland for release in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry. Birds were held for 6-10 weeks before release. Wing-tags and radio and/or GPS satellite transmitters were attached to birds for individual identification and tracking post-release. Birds tended to remain in the Killarney area for the first few months after release, moving away in late winter but remaining in south Kerry. Most birds dispersed in spring, tending to return towards the ‘natal’ area in autumn. First pairing occurred in 2010 when birds were still sub-adults. First nesting took place in 2012 with chicks fledged successfully in 2013. The number of territorial pairs increased rapidly but declined after 2014 with the loss of some adult birds. However, the number of breeding pairs and the number of young fledged continues to increase, with 14 chicks fledged to date. Comparisons with the first phase of the Scottish west coast reintroduction suggest that the outlook for the Irish population is reasonably optimistic. Illegal poisoning (64% of known mortalities) has had a serious impact on population growth and continues to threaten the viability of the reintroduction programme.
... For instance, O'Rourke (2014) highlights the con ict between the "raptor and the lamb" and emphasizes the need for the early involvement of all key stakeholders. Similarly, Burke et al. (2015) state that given the sensitivity of the white-tailed eagle population, efforts to engage and inform farmers and other stakeholders are crucially important. ...
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The historic persecution and decline of European raptor populations precipitated the use of reintroduction as a species restoration tool in the late twentieth century. One of the key requirements of the World Conservation Union reintroduction guidelines concerns the need for social feasibility studies to explore the attitudes of local human populations toward restoration and reintroduction proposals. Ahead of any formal proposals to reintroduce white-tailed sea eagles to Cumbria, United Kingdom, we conducted a baseline public attitudinal survey (n=300). We identified broad public support for this reintroduction, which transcended differences in the demographic, geographic, and employment profiles of the study cohort. There was public recognition that white-tailed sea eagles could deliver a broad range of socioeconomic and environmental benefits with few detrimental impacts. Although the value of attitudinal surveys of this nature has been questioned, we would argue that they provide a useful baseline "snapshot" ahead of a more structured and focused reintroduction consultation. These results reinforce the emergence of public interest in the restoration of European raptors in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century.
... The true extent of persecution that occurs is impossible to quantify and recorded incidents are 'likely to be a fraction of the number of incidents that occurred in total' (NPWS 2013). However, within the ROI birds of prey generally receive positive media coverage and are well regarded by the public, so future conservation efforts appear to have the backing of the majority of the population (Burke et al. 2014). ...
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A total of 41 sites used by breeding peregrines Falco peregrinus in Wicklow were monitored from 2008 to 2012. Details of reproductive activity and productivity were recorded to investigate whether performance was influenced by nest-site characteristics, raven Corvus corax presence and weather. On average, 26 territorial pairs were recorded each year, with mean productivity of 1.4 young fledged/ territorial pair. Annual breeding success ranged from 47.4% to 95.7% (mean 70.0%). Mean annual density of territory-holding pairs was 1.47 pairs per 100km 2 within a 1800km 2 area in Wicklow. Most breeding attempts were on traditional upland and coastal cliffs, but quarries and lowland cliffs were important (41% of sites used). April rainfall adversely affected hatching success and, consequently, breeding success. The population was both stable and self-sustaining during this study. High levels of site occupancy and breeding success suggest limited availability of nest sites in Wicklow. Densities and productivity here compare favourably with studied populations elsewhere and suggest that the study area may be a net exporter of dispersing young peregrines to neighbouring areas. We discuss the likely importance of Wicklow for the peregrine population of Ireland. The negative interactions between ravens and peregrines, and the role of human disturbance in these interactions, warrant further investigation.
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Wildlife management methods such as culling (lethal control) and fencing can be controversial in some circumstances. Such controversy can be problematic for decision-makers or those managing decision-making processes and can lead to management delays or inertia. Understanding the reasons why people support or oppose specific management methods is therefore an important objective for researchers. Attitudes towards methods are in part based on individual beliefs about those methods, the species of wildlife being managed and other associated phenomena. This paper adopts a qualitative approach to develop understanding of these beliefs. We conducted 17 focus-groups on wild deer management at two locations in Britain, with both ‘professional’ land manager and ‘public’ participants (n = 103). We identified a number of individual beliefs which are grouped into five categories: naturalness, overabundance, impacts, effectiveness and animal welfare. Our findings suggest that potentially controversial management methods will receive most support where the objective is to maintain a ‘natural’ environment, at sites where impacts are evident, and when using targeted and effective methods.
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The media play a key role in communicating conservation issues such as human-wildlife conflict, but corresponding literature on how issues are represented is limited. This article traces the depiction of human-elephant conflict in the media by examining (a) how conflicts are framed and (b) how ultimate and proximate causes are communicated in Indian and international newspapers. Issues were often polarized or framed in dramatic terms, and consonance in reporting causes was lacking. Active engagement with the media is needed to produce a nuanced debate on conflict, for which recognizing the role of different actors and working closely with individual journalists are vital.
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Capsule The loss of eagles from large tracts of lowland and upland habitat in Britain and Ireland over the last 1500 years is attributed to human activity.Aim To estimate changes in past distribution and population size of Britain and Ireland's two native eagle species.Methods Placenames suggesting the past presence of eagles were categorized according to modern knowledge of the species' ecology. Together with documented historical locations, these sites were mapped to derive approximate former ranges. Population estimates were made for each species at about 500 and 1800 CE.Results Estimated range at about 500 CE was 110 250 km for White-tailed Eagles Haliaeetus albicilla and 98 500 km for Golden Eagles Aquila chrysaetos, with 44 600 km of overlap. Population sizes were 800–1400 pairs of White-tailed Eagles and 1000–1500 pairs of Golden Eagles, declining to 150 and 300–500 pairs, respectively, by 1800.Conclusion Our results provide evidence for the presence within the last 1500 years of one or other species of eagle throughout much of Britain and Ireland. The influence of climate change on eagle habitat has been subsumed by the effects of habitat destruction and persecution as primary causes of absence from much of their former range.
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Conservation conflicts are increasing and need to be managed to minimise negative impacts on biodiversity, human livelihoods, and human well-being. Here, we explore strategies and case studies that highlight the long-term, dynamic nature of conflicts and the challenges to their management. Conflict management requires parties to recognise problems as shared ones, and engage with clear goals, a transparent evidence base, and an awareness of trade-offs. We hypothesise that conservation outcomes will be less durable when conservationists assert their interests to the detriment of others. Effective conflict management and long-term conservation benefit will be enhanced by better integration of the underpinning social context with the material impacts and evaluation of the efficacy of alternative conflict management approaches.
Management of wildlife stakeholder acceptance capacity (WSAC) for cougars (Puma concolor) presents a formidable challenge for wildlife managers concerned with coexistence of this species with humans, although considerations of WSAC may provide supplemental or even alternative approaches to direct manipulation of cougars and their habitat. We used personal interviews (n=34) and a mail-back questionnaire (n=805) from a stratified random sample of households to measure WSAC for cougars in Montana and identify factors that affect WSAC. A 3-variable model that included stakeholder perception of cougar population levels, attitudes toward cougars, and risk beliefs about cougars correctly predicted respondents' WSAC 85% of the time. Compared to persons desiring stable or increased populations, respondents who desired a decrease in cougar numbers were more likely to perceive that populations of cougars were increasing, have negative attitudes toward cougars, have risk beliefs that implied dread toward cougars, and perceive an inequity between people who benefitted from cougars and people who were exposed to potential risks. Demographic variables such as location and tenure of residency, gender, and level of formal education gained by respondents did not significantly affect WSAC. Our study suggests that WSAC for cougars may be modified most effectively through communication and management actions that affect stakeholder attitudes and beliefs about cougars and their population levels and affect perceptions of risks to humans from cougars.
Human–wildlife conflict is a rapidly developing topic in biodiversity and conservation management. Restoration ecology and species reintroductions have increased contact between people and wildlife which in turn has led to increased conflict. This paper explores the conflict surrounding the reintroduction of the white-tailed sea eagle to Ireland. It provides a summary of how the diverse stakeholders – conservationists, farmers, tourist lobby and general public – interpret the eagle's homecoming after an absence from the landscape of over a hundred years. Species reintroduction projects tend to be dominated by natural scientists, who emphasise the impartiality of science and often ignore or down play the socio-economic aspects of species reintroductions. The conflict surrounding the reintroduction of the sea eagles to Ireland reinforce the truism that behind all human–wildlife conflict, lies human–human conflict. The paper argues that the human dimension of species reintroductions need to be taken seriously if the project management aims are to be achieved, and that legislation and law enforcement on its own will not solve human–wildlife conflict issues. The conflict between the ‘raptor and the lamb’ described in this paper highlights the need for the early involvement of all key stakeholders, and the importance of establishing effective dialogue and communications among the different parties. It should also be recognised that the reintroduction of a species may not always be the right option to pursue.
The potential for disease transmission between wild and domestic animals may interfere with wildlife and habitat conservation on lands surrounding protected areas. Recently, possible transmission of bovine tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) from wild ungulates to domestic livestock has affected the Riding Mountain National Park region in Manitoba, Canada. Wolf (Canis lupus) predation on ungulate populations may help lessen the risk of disease transmission to livestock. We conducted an exploratory analysis of causal factors associated with farmer attitudes toward observing wolves on their farms. A survey to 4220 farms within 50 km of the Park resulted in an adjusted response rate of 25%. We constructed several logistic regression models with factors hypothesized to influence whether farmers agreed with the statement ‘‘I enjoy seeing wolves on my land’’, and three candidate models received reasonable support. Factors most affecting attitudes were, in order of importance, perceived wolf population size, frequency of seeing wolves, perceived seriousness of wolf damage, distance to Park boundary and number of beef cattle (Bos taurus) owned. The factors least influential on attitudes were education and age. Concern over bovine tuberculosis in wild elk also had minimal influence. Of respondents who perceived the wolf population as ‘‘too high’’, 60% were extremely concerned about bovine tuberculosis in wild elk. Although the role of wolf predation as a potential natural regulator of disease in wild ungulates might not be widely recognized in many areas, we believe this provides a unique opportunity to re-examine the significance of maintaining viable wolf populations.
A content analysis of six daily Minnesota newspapers shows that the type of wildlife stories published depends on whether the newspaper is in an urban or rural setting and on whether the story is on the news or “outdoor” pages. Stories about wildlife conflicts are more common in urban than rural news pages, but neither type of newspaper publishes much about conflict in its outdoor pages. All newspapers relied heavily on bureaucratic sources. © 1992, Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication. All rights reserved.
Media discourse and public opinion are treated as two parallel systems of constructing meaning. This paper explores their relationship by analyzing the discourse on nuclear power in four general audience media: television news coverage, newsmagazine accounts, editorial cartoons, and syndicated opinion columns. The analysis traces the careers of different interpretive packages on nuclear power from 1945 to the present. This media discourse, it is argued, is an essential context for understanding the formation of public opinion on nuclear power. More specifically, it helps to account for such survey results as the decline in support for nuclear power before Three Mile Island, a rebound after a burst of media publicity has died out, the gap between general support for nuclear power and support for a plant in one's own community, and the changed relationship of age to support for nuclear power from 1950 to the present.
We completed a content analysis of newspaper, radio, and television reports (n = 117) available to people in New York State between January 1999 and March 2002, to characterize how news stories differed with regard to problem identification, attributions of responsibility, and proposed solutions to black bear management problems. Nearly all reports could be characterized as episodic rather than thematic (i.e., focused on specific events rather than general outcomes or conditions). Reports identified few bear-related problems, suggested few solutions to problems, and tended to attribute responsibility for solving problems to individuals, not government agencies. We suggest that wildlife managers make efforts to raise stakeholder awareness about a wider array of bear-human interactions and effects of interactions than are reported by mass media as management issues emerge. By improving media relations plans and investing in stakeholder issue education, wildlife agencies can enable communities to create frames for productive dialogue about black bear management.