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Friday, November 9th 2012

On today's Mooney Goes Wild,

Dr Emma Teeling tells us how the genome of the bat could help humans live longer. We uncover the incredible story of the spade-toothed whale, the rarest whale in the world: washed up on a New Zealand beach last year – only the fifth sighting in 140 years! And, Birdwatch Ireland's Niall Hatch on the strange practice of dyeing young chicks in exotic colours; the ongoing trade in exotic birds; and the appearance in Ireland this winter of the magnificent Bohemian Waxwing.

Ash Tree Disease

This fungal disease of ash trees hit Denmark in 2003 and they have now lost a colossal 90% of their ash trees. It came to England three years ago in young trees brought in from Holland. They have managed to curtail it in England to one area.

It was noticed in Ireland in Leitrim five weeks ago, in trees that had been imported as saplings from Holland, and they have all been destroyed since. None has been detected in Northern Ireland - yet. Calls for a ban on the importation of ash saplings to Ireland are met with the rejoinder that free trade in the EU precludes this. Last Wednesday, Minister of State Shane McEntee introduced regulations that means Ireland can only import ash from disease-free areas. But is it too little, too late? Our own Eanna ni Lamhna is President of the Tree Council of Ireland, and acccording to Eanna, we are looking at a disease that is on the march inexorably in mainland Europe. Ireland could be a disease free zone if managed correctly. Already the garden centres have agreed voluntarily to cease the movement of ash saplings around the country. Eanna explains more this afternoon, and we also talk to Austin Brady, from the Woodland Trust in Grantham, in Lincolnshire...

To read the information leaflet from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, with lots of information about the Chalara ash dieback disease, including symptoms, and what to do, click here, and to read the UK Forestry Commission's information leaflet on Ash dieback disease, click here.

Doha's Dyed Chicks

Whilst there are lots of brown and grey birds in the world, there are also a great many who are vividly coloured - the pink flamingo, the kingfisher, the peacock, parrots, macaws, and so on. But if you look at the above picture, you'll see coloured birds in a cage, in neon pinks, lime greens, deep purples. These are most definitely inappropriately-coloured birds. Their colour did not originate in nature but rather was the result of a dye job. The pictures were taken in a market in Doha in Qatar in the Middle East and were sent to us by Gordon Hickey, an Irishman living over there. Apparently the practice is quite widespread, principally in order to make young chicks more attractive as presents. Although generally not damaging to the chicks (depending on how it is carried out), it is practice we wouldn't particularly recommend. We talk to him on the programme today, and to Niall Hatch, Development Officer with BirdWatch Ireland.

Exotic Birds & Bohemian Waxwings

Probably the number one reason for covering chick feathers with dye is to make them more attractive as pets. Vibrant colours are obviously very attractive and appealing to the eye. And these vibrant colours make the trade in exotic birds quite lucrative. Niall also examines the types of exotic birds that have been turning up in Ireland, such as the Mandarin Ducks and other exotic wildfowl (e.g., Wood Duck, Bahama Pintail and Hooded Merganser) turning up in and around urban areas (especially Dublin).

Mandarin Duck (photo by Shay Connolly)
Mandarin Duck (photo by Shay Connolly)

Mandarin Duck (photo by Shay Connolly)
Mandarin Duck (photo by Shay Connolly)

Wood Duck (photo by Shay Connolly)
Wood Duck (photo by Shay Connolly)

Bahama Pintail (photo by Shay Connolly)
Bahama Pintail (photo by Shay Connolly)

Hooded Merganser (photo by Ken Kinsella)
Hooded Merganser (photo by Ken Kinsella)

Now, there is one bird that actually people might mistake for an escaped exotic bird! It's called the Bohemian Waxwing, and it's not native to Ireland, but is making an appearance this winter:

Waxwing (photo by Dick Coombes)

Waxwing (photo by Dick Coombes)

Waxwing (photo by Dick Coombes)

BirdWatch Ireland would like listeners to let them know that if they see Waxwings, or any other birds in their gardens this winter, they should contact BirdWatch Ireland. The best way to do this is via the annual Garden Bird Survey, which has been running for over twenty years now, and which always gets a great response from Mooney Goes Wild listeners.

They are asking you to keep track of the numbers of each species of bird that visit your garden over a 13-week period: it’s great fun and very simple to do, and the data they receive is extremely useful to them in their bird conservation work.

To take part in the Garden Bird Survey comes to reporting birds, you can download the following PDF document, courtesy of Birdwatch Ireland: Garden Bird Survey article from Wings November 2012

You can also take part by going online to www.birdwatchireland.ie, or if you prefer a paper form, call 01 281-9878 and BirdWatch Ireland can send one out.

App Article: Potatoes (by Eanna ni Lamhna)

The main crop potatoes are now in full array in our shops. We can choose from Records, Queens, Maris Pipers, Kerr’s Pinks, Roosters and Golden Wonders and that’s just in the ordinary shops. An even larger variety greets you in the specialist green grocer’s shops. But do Irish people judge their potatoes on their size or on their colour or indeed even on their taste? Of course not. To Irish people potatoes are either floury or waxy. In fact the highest accolade that can be given to potatoes is that they are so floury they’d choke you!

To find out more, download the Mooney app, for iPhone and Android phones, to read the rest of Eanna's article, and much more!

How Bats Could Help Us Live Longer

The history of mankind is littered with attempts to find the secret to eternal youth. The ancient Egyptians and Romans ate garlic in large quantities in an attempt to prolong life. Chinese alchemists prescribed gold and mercury as the key to longer life. Popstar Michael Jackson slept in an oxygen chamber to maintain his Peter Pan look. And only last week came news that the 72-year-old President of Kazakhstan (President Nazarbayev) ordered scientists to find the elixir of life. The result? A bio-yogurt that speeds up bowel movements!

You won't see many of these on Hallowe'en!

While none of the aforementioned remedies has proven successful, the key to longer life could lie with bats! Yes, the little furry mammals with warm blood could help us all live longer. Dr Emma Teeling is a lecturer at the school of Biology and Environmental Science at UCD, and has just received a grant from the European Research Council to study bats for clues to healthy ageing. She joins Derek and the panel in studio today to explain more...

And if you'd like to hear more from Emma, you can see her speak on TED: http://www.ted.com/speakers/emma_teeling.html

Spade-Toothed Whales

A mother whale and her baby, stranded two years ago, have been confirmed as spade-toothed whales by scientists at the University of Auckland.

Spade-Toothed Whale

The spade-tooth is the world’s rarest whale – as far as we know no-one has ever seen it alive - the last bone fragments were found in 1986!!!

There’s a paper all about it in the journal Current Biology. One of its authors, Rochelle Constantine from the University of Auckland – but currently on sabbatical at Lund University in Sweden – joins Derek and the panel on the line today to tell us more... To view the original article in Current Biology co-written by Rochelle, click here.

Weather & Health Conference

The Irish Met Society, with the Institute of Physics, are co-hosting a one-day conference on weather and health. The conference is open to the public as well as health professionals and academics and admission is free (tea/coffee/scones also!). People can book online:

The Irish Meteorological Society and the Institute of Physics: “Weather And Health – An Irish Perspective”

Saturday November 17th 2012, Visitor Centre,
National Botanic Gardens, Dublin 9

09.15 - Registration, tea/coffee and an opportunity to view poster presentations

10.00 - Welcome – Paul Halton (IMS President) and Prof. Pat Goodman (Institute of Physics/Environment Branch

10.15 - Heatwaves and Mortality in Ireland – Mathilde Pascal (French Institute on Health Surveillance)

10.45 - Cancer Risks and Weather – Prof. John Crown (DCU and UCD)

11.15 - Coffee Break and an opportunity to view poster presentations

11.45 - Coping with Cold Weather and Fuel Poverty – Helen McAvoy (Institute of Public Health in Ireland - IPH), and Alone representative

12.15 - Simulating Climate Change in Ireland using a Multi Model Ensemble Approach – Dr. Paul Nolan (UCD)

12.45 - Lunch, opportunity to view poster presentations and/or optional tour of Botanic Gardens

14.15 - Mental Health, Suicide and Weather – Dr. Chris Morris, University of Ulster

14.45 - Emergency Planning in the Health Service Executive to cope with Extreme Weather Events – Gavin Maguire

15.15 - Met Éireann Weather Services for Health Applications – Gerald Fleming (Head of Forecasting, Met Éireann)

16.00 - Close of Conference

Mooney Tunes

Mooney Tunes is back! Due to extremely popular demand, the next Mooney Tunes concert will take place at the National Concert Hall on December 18th. ***TICKETS FOR THIS CONCERT HAVE ALL SOLD OUT*** Artists confirmed to take part include Mary Byrne, Eimear Quinn and Niamh Kavanagh, and of course the RTÉ Concert Orchestra - and we have some more really special guests that you'll find out about a bit closer to the time!! So send us in your choice of music, and why you would like it to be included, to mooney@rte.ie or to:

RTÉ Radio Centre
Dublin 4

The Island Landscape

RTÉ Television, in association with Mooney, is currently producing a major new documentary series on the history of the Irish landscape. The series will tell the story of how our landscape was created after the last major climatic event – the end of the last Ice Age, over ten thousand years ago.  And we want your help! Would you like to contribute video towards the TV series? Click here to find out what we're looking for!

Today's Podcasts

Ash Dieback Disease
Coloured Chicks Of Doha, Qatar
Bohemian Waxwings Visit Ireland/ Exotic Birds
App Article: Potatoes
How Bats Could Help Us Live Longer
Spade-Toothed Whales

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