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Panel: Éanna Ní Lamhna, Richard Collins, Terry Flanagan & Niall Hatch
Welcoming a new arrival
Congratulations from all at Mooney Goes Wild to Éanna and her husband John Harding, who have just welcomed their first granddaughter. Little Alice Jane Harding came into the world last week and, as Éanna tells us on tonight's programme, she and her family are over the moon.
While we are at it, we would also like to extend our congratulations to everyone who is celebrating the birth of a child at the moment. We wish you all every happiness.
Lamb Island Island?
From his home in Malahide, Co. Dublin, Richard Collins has the enviable fortune of being able to look across the sea to Lambay, the fifth-largest island in the Irish Sea. At this time of year it is a hive of activity, as this is when the Grey Seal breeding season gets underway. Between September and November, bull seals on the island fight and jostle for the opportunity to mate with the females, sometimes trampling helpless seal calves in the process.
The island has a rich natural heritage, and during the summer months is home to many breeding seabirds, including an important colony of Puffins. It was the latter that prompted BirdWatch Ireland to bring the Honorary President of BirdLife International and keen wildlife photographer, Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado of Japan, to visit the island in 2017. There, she was very much taken both with the comical Puffins and the unexpected presence of Red-necked Wallabies, an introduced marsupial species from Australia which has been thriving on the island since the 1950s.
Please don’t call it "Lambay Island" however. As Richard explains, the "ay" suffix comes from the Old Norse word for island, so doing so is essentially calling it "Lamb Island Island". Simply "Lambay" will suffice.
HIH Princess Takamado wrote a report on her birdwatching visit to Lambay, which you can read at birdlife.org/asia/news/lovely-birds-i-encountered-ireland
What’s in a name?
It’s not merely when it comes to islands and newborns that getting the name right is encouraged. Using the correct titles for people, organisms and objects is something that seems to be extremely important to us human beings in general. We like to give names to our fellow creatures, both as species and, in many cases, to individuals with whom we feel a particular bond, be they pets, zoo residents or even movie stars.
Keiko in an aquarium in Oregon prior to his release. Photo Getty
An example of the latter was the Orca (a.k.a. Killer Whale – see, names make a difference!) known, by humans at least, as Keiko, who came to fame portraying the fictitious Willy in the film Free Willy. Following a worldwide campaign, life was to imitate art, as Keiko was returned to the Wild following a lengthy period in captivity. Sadly, however, Keiko failed to integrate with wild Orcas and died alone in Norwegian waters in 2003. Names seem very important to Killer Whales (which, to complicate nomenclatural matters, are actually dolphins, not whales at all), and their failure to recognise Keiko’s may have led to his unfortunate social isolation.
Many species of cetacean, the group of marine mammals made up of whales, dolphins and porpoises, seem to have names for each other and, as our panellists discuss on tonight’s programme, so too do birds such as parrots and crows. We are still a long way from understanding how and why some of our fellow animals have individual names for each other, but it does seem strongly linked to social bonding and intelligence.
For more information about the problems that Keiko the Orca experienced interacting with fellow members of his species, visit newscientist.com/article/dn17039-why-freeing-willy-was-the-wrong-thing-to-do
National Tree Day – 7th October 2021
In addition to being one of our regular panellists here on Mooney Goes Wild, Éanna Ní Lamhna is also the President of the Tree Council of Ireland. On tonight’s programme she tells us about that organisation’s National Tree Day, which takes place each year on the first Thursday in October. This annual event for schools has become a firm fixture in the conservation calendar and, to celebrate it this year, 1,500 free Wild Cherry saplings will be distributed to schools across the country, on a first come, first served basis.
To learn more about National Tree Day and, if you represent a school, to claim your free sapling, visit treeday.ie
Rise like a Phoenix
The Phoenix is a mythological bird which the ancient cultures of Greece, Egypt and other Mediterranean regions believed had achieved immortality. Periodically it would appear to die in a great combustion, only to rise reborn from the ashes.
Of course, in an Irish context, the word "Phoenix" is more often than not immediately followed by the word "Park", and is intimately connected with what is one of the largest urban recreation spaces anywhere in Europe. There is even a prominent monument in the massive Dublin park featuring a statue of the Phoenix bird. As our roving reporter Terry Flanagan tells us on tonight’s programme, however, the name of the Phoenix Park originally had nothing to do with its mythological avian namesake at all. Rather, it is an Anglicisation of the Irish fhionnuisce, meaning clear or still water.
The Phoenix itself, along with its ability to come back from the brink of death, was the stuff of myth. However, there are several real-world examples of birds that were on the edge of extinction miraculously pulling the same trick, often with human assistance. On tonight’s programme, our panellists look at a few of their stories, which in at least one case also involves fire and ashes, and reveal how targeted conservation action initiated in the nick of time can save species that were once believed to be doomed.
For more information about Dublin’s Phoenix Park, visit phoenixpark.ie
For more information about some real-life bird species that have been brought back from the very brink of extinction, visit birdlife.org/worldwide/news/10-birds-were-saved-extinction
The Coastal Atlas of Ireland
A landmark new book has just been published by Cork University Press as part of its acclaimed Atlas series. Entitled 'The Coastal Atlas of Ireland', this hugely ambitious book contains 912 pages, weighs in at 4.5 kg and contains a wealth of information about every aspect of the coastal zone of our island.
The Coastal Atlas of Ireland - Photo Cork University Press
On tonight’s programme, Val Cummins, one of the atlas’ editors, joins our panel to discuss the work involved in putting together such a comprehensive tome and the ways in which our coastline has shaped and influenced our culture, our environment and how we live our lives.
For more information about The Coastal Atlas of Ireland project and to purchase the book, which represents exceptional value at €59.00, visit ucc.ie/en/coastal-atlas
African Penguins killed by bees
South African conservationists were stunned and saddened last week by the grim discovery of the carcasses of 63 African Penguins at Boulders Beach in Simonstown, near Cape Town. It transpired that these endangered birds had been killed by a swarm of Cape Honeybees, with numerous bee stings found around the unfortunate creatures’ vulnerable eyes. Neither species would usually come into conflict with the other, which makes the loss of so many of these rare birds, the subject of intensive conservation efforts for many years, especially tragic. On tonight’s programme, our panellists discuss this unfortunate event and the theories behind what may have led a swarm of bees to attack a harmless flock of flightless seabirds.
Some African Penguins on a beach (Spheniscus demersus) Photo Getty
If you would like to learn more about South Africa’s penguins and happen to have access to Netflix, we would highly recommend watching the streaming platform’s charming documentary series Penguin Town: netflix.com/title/81214135