Back from the Brink is a one-hour programme that plans to celebrate the hard work, dedication, and commitment of conservationists who are striving to save endangered species from extinction. Here, Derek Mooney discusses this unique, pan-European natural history event.
I've been working in natural history broadcasting for over 30 years now. In that time, I’ve seen some truly wonderful sights, but I’ve also seen first-hand the problems that wildlife is facing, both in Ireland and around the globe. There has been a growing awareness amongst the general public, particularly in the last few years, of the threats to our environment and biodiversity.
In many ways, this has been long overdue, but I’m also aware that for a lot of people the current state of our planet can seem overwhelming, even depressing. We are increasingly bombarded by tales of doom and gloom. Issues like climate change and animal extinction are too often made to seem insurmountable, as though tragedy is a foregone conclusion, but that’s simply not true. It’s not too late to help nature.
We need to find a way to bring some much-needed optimism back into the conservation. That’s definitely what attracted me most to Back from the Brink. Through my work over the years on Mooney Goes Wild, in particular, I have met thousands of dedicated scientists and conservationists out there, fighting hard to save endangered species and working miracles. By telling some of their stories, I thought we could inspire people and show that there is every reason for hope.
Nature is resilient, and if given a chance it can recover from all sorts of abuse. It was once thought that the Red Kite, a stunning bird of prey, was lost forever from Irish skies, shot and poisoned to extinction. To see dozens of them now flying over the Co. Wicklow countryside again, all thanks to the dedication of people who simply weren’t prepared to give up, was a humbling and inspirational experience.
The same goes for the enormous efforts that I witnessed to safeguard the growing populations of Wolves in Italy, Brown Bears in Spain and Eurasian Beavers in The Netherlands, to give a few key examples from the programme. Perhaps the most sobering part for me personally was seeing the dramatic effects that climate change has wrought on the Swiss Alps, where glaciers are rapidly melting and high mountain habitats are disappearing, along with the unique animals that live there. Even then, against all the odds, people are fighting back.
Back from the Brink is not just a story about animals. At its core, it’s really a story about people. We, humans, have caused our planet’s problems, but people are also the key to fixing them. Literally every conservationist I interviewed for the programme spoke with such passion about their work, coupled with an unshakeable belief that what they were doing was utterly worthwhile, and I think that shines through on the screen. It must do because even the production crews, and there were many across Europe, not least our own team here in Ireland, headed by Colm Crowley from RTÉ Cork and scientific advisor Niall Hatch, were totally dedicated to this project.
We want to empower as many of those viewers as possible, and to reinforce the truth that every single one of us can play a role in saving endangered species and the wider environment. It’s not just about doing your bit – it takes much more than a bit, it takes a lot! – but about understanding that we need to accept fundamental changes to the way in which we live our lives. Having seen what can be achieved when the will is there, it will be well worth it, believe me.
Watch Back from the Brink at 6:30pm on Monday, 30th of December on RTÉ One.
Tuesday, June 20th 2017
N. IRELAND: Rare Small Blue Butterfly Found
In County Fermanagh, a rare butterfly thought to be extinct has been discovered by a surveyor from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Bobbie Hamill was inspecting the condition of grassland near Derrygonnelly, when she spotted the butterfly. The head of conservation for Butterfly Conservation in Northern Ireland, Catherine Bertrand, said that the area had been visited regularly since the last sighting of the Small Blue 16 years ago, but with no more reports, it was understand the butterfly population had died out. Bobbie Hamill praised local landowners for grazing the lands sustainably, and said she believed that the Small Blue may perhaps be surviving in other small pockets of Fermanagh.
Monday, June 19th 2017
IRELAND: Environmentalist, Naturalist And Mentor Dick Warner Dies
We were devastated to learn of the untimely death on Friday of naturalist, broadcaster, environmentalist and mentor to many of those on Mooney Goes Wild, Dick Warner. Dick worked on over over 90 broadcast television documentaries, including the memorable Waterways series. Our deepest sympathies to Dick's family and friends. President Michael D. Higgins led the tributes, saying Dick was "a dedicated environmentalist as well as a wonderful filmmaker, and his beautiful work on the canals of Ireland was outstanding". On Sunday's Mooney Goes Wild programme, we paid tribute to Dick Warner; we listened again to Dick's RTÉ Radio 1 documentary Swansong Of A Toad, as some of the Mooney Goes Wild regular contributors brought us their memories of working alongside Dick...
Friday, June 16th 2017
IRELAND: RTÉ lyric fm Launches New Nature Feature
This weekend sees the exciting launch of a new nature segment on RTÉ lyric fm, which will be broadcast each week on Saturdays, as part of the Daybreak With Evonne Ferguson programme. Nature File is a new weekly glimpse on Daybreak in to Ireland’s natural world. Each week, Nature File will explore new stories about wild plants, animals or wonderful wild habitats, with surprising details about light, colour, navigation, recent scientific discoveries and even forays in to folklore. Presented by ecologist Anja Murray, every Saturday morning at 9.20, Nature File will take listeners on a celebratory journey to the lesser known realms of nature in Ireland. The first episode will focus on Kingfishers; forthcoming episodes will feature Irish Orchids, Irish Bees and Life On The Bog.
Thursday, June 15th 2017
IRELAND: Irish Raptor Study Group Calls For Peregrine Sightings
The Irish Raptor Study Group is currently carrying out a National Peregrine Survey. According to the group, the 2002 National Peregrine Survey estimated that almost a quarter (23.1%) of occupied territories were in quarries. The IRSG say: "If you see a Peregrine in the midlands area or you may know of the location of a nest site, we are very keen to hear from you. Do you live live close to or work in a quarry? Have you seen Peregrine in the area? Please send details of your sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org to contribute to the National Peregrine Survey".
Wednesday, June 14th 2017
UK: RSPB Calls For Puffin Paparazzi!
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is calling on members of the public to send in their images of puffins carrying fish, from as many places in the UK and Ireland as possible. According to the RSPB, "we need you to take photos of puffins with food in their bills and submit them to us. It will help us learn more about what puffins eat. If you fancy being part of our Puffarazzi team, get snapping today!". For further information, and to take part, visit www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/conservation/project-puffin or use the hashtag #ProjectPuffinUK on Twitter.
Tuesday, June 13th 2017
IRELAND: Researchers Look For Volunteers To Help With Breeding Woodcock Survey
Researchers from the School of Biological, Earth, and Environmental Sciences (BEES) in University College Cork are looking for volunteers to help with Ireland's first Breeding Woodcock Survey. According to the team, 'the woodcock is the only species of wading bird in Ireland that is adapted to breed in woodland. Its plumage is superbly camouflaged blending with dead leaf litter and ground vegetation where it nests, rears its chicks and roosts during the day'. The survey closes on June 30th; for more information, visit ornithology.ucc.ie/current-projects/ecology-cryptic-game-species-woodcock-phd-project/breeding-woodcock-survey.
Monday, June 12th 2017
IRELAND: Rare Moray Eel Sighting
Last year, Mooney Goes Wild reported on a sighting of a Moray Eel in Kerry; Dr. Kevin Flannery spoke to us about how rare it is to see this eel in our waters. Kevin is back in the news today, as there has been another sighting of a Moray eel - the second so far this year. Speaking to the Irish Independent, Kevin warned how detrimental the eel can be to native marine species, and how global warming is leading to an increase of the eels, which are usually found in tropical or Mediterranean waters. To read the full article, click here: www.independent.ie/irish-news/second-sighting-of-deadly-moray-eel-in-irish-waters-is-alarming-says-expert-35815141.html.
Friday, June 9th 2017
IRELAND: What Implications Will Brexit Have On The Environment?
The Irish Wildlife Trust today announced plans for a conference next Friday, June 16th 2017 in Dundalk on the implications of Brexit for the environment on the island of Ireland. Speakers, including Mairead McGuinness MEP, Vice President of the European Parliament, will give their views and join the debate as to what the future holds for our environment once the UK leaves the EU.
What? Conference: Brexit and the Environment: Impact on the island of Ireland
Where? Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dundalk
When? Friday, 16 June 2017, 9.00am - 4pm
This event is free to attend but prior registration is essential and spaces are limited.
Book your place by contacting the European Parliament officer in Dublin at email@example.com or phone 01 605-7900. Click here to see the full agenda for the conference
Thursday, June 8th 2017
WORLD OCEANS DAY CELEBRATED AMIDST WARNINGS OF PLASTIC POLLUTION
World Oceans Day is being celebrated around the world today, with an overall theme of 'Our Oceans, Our Future'. You may remember that Irish marine biologist Rowan Byrne joined us on the programme a few weeks ago to talk about the serious problem that plastic pollution can cause for marine life. World Oceans Day 2017 aims to 'encourage solutions to plastic pollution and prevent marine litter for a healthier ocean and a better future'.
However the latest All-Ireland Coastwatch Survey has revealed that plastic bottles were found in over 80 per cent of all coastal sites surveyed. The Coastwatch survey examines 275km of Irish coast at low tide - work that is carried out by over 2,000 Coastwatch volunteers. The most survey took place between September 15th and October 15th 2016. The results indicate that plastic bottles are the primary macro litter item found around the island of Ireland every year. For more information, visit greennews.ie/plastic-bottles-80-percent-coast-sites-coastwatch-report/.
If you have children who are interested in the television show Octonauts (which follows the adventures of eight adventurers whogo on undersea adventures to explore, rescue, and protect ocean animals), you may like to know that World Oceans Day have created a FREE Octonauts resource pack for children, which includes posters, colouring pages and face-painting guides! For more information, and to download your resource pack, visit www.worldoceansday.org/octonauts.
Wednesday, June 7th 2017
BRITAIN: Call For Records For Great British Bee Count 2017
In Britain, the environmental group Friends Of The Earth are looking for members of the public to submit sightings of bees for their Great British Bee Count. To do this, they have created a FREE bee identification app for both Android and iPhones. They want records of bees seen across Britain and Ireland between May 19th and June 30th, so you still have a few weeks left! According to the group, 'by taking part, you'll learn more about our brilliant bees and easy ways to help them. It’s also a great nature activity to do with children - encouraging them to get up close with these wonderful insects'. For more information, and to find out how to download the app and submit records, visit www.foe.co.uk/bee-count.
Tuesday, June 6th 2017
EUROPE: CALL FOR RECORDS OF BREEDING BIRDS FOR NEW ATLAS
European Breeding Bird Atlas 2 is an ambitious project to map the distribution and abundance of more than 500 species breeding in Europe, and involves a number of organisations, including BirdWatch Ireland. Members of the public across Europe are being asked to carry out fieldwork in any of over 5,000 50x50km squares. Work began in 2013 and concludes in 2017, but there are still a number of squares - including many in Ireland - where more fieldwork is required. According to the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology), 'knowing where birds occur and how distributions have changed is crucial to effective targeting of conservation policies and action'. To find out how to get involved, visit https://app.bto.org/birdtrack/main/data-home.jsp.
Monday, June 5th 2017
WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY CELEBRATED AROUND THE GLOBE
Today, June 5th, is World Environment Day - the United Nations’ most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. Each World Environment Day is organized around a theme that focuses attention on a particularly pressing environmental concern, and the theme for 2017 is connecting people to nature. Since it began in 1974, World Environment Day has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated in over 100 countries. For further information, visit worldenvironmentday.global.
Friday, June 2nd 2017
SOUTH AFRICA: Deadly Snakes Fight Each Other On Golf Course
One South African golfer got a shock whilst out playing a round recently: a once-in-a-lifetime sighting of two deadly Black Mamba snakes dueling and tussling at the 14th hole. Cara Treherne managed to capture a video of the fight, which took place at the Leopard Creek Country Club, just outside Kruger National Park in Malalane, South Africa. Venomous snakes such as the Black Mamba don't bite each other whilst fighting, so it can appear as though they are wrestling each other. The snakes have to coil around each other to take their opponent down, and so assert dominance - usually to try to impress a nearby female snake.
Thursday, June 1st 2017
UK: Poll Reveals City Dwellers Love Nature But Don't Get Enough Of It
A new poll of over 2,400 people, conducted by the group The Wildlife Trusts, has revealed that those living in major cities in the UK feel that nature is very important to them, and want to help preserve it - but that they struggle to connect with it as much as they would like. According to the survey, 92% of adults think it’s important to help nature, but 80% of city-dwellers don’t think that they spend enough time in nature, and just 21% said that the last ‘wow’ moment they had with nature was in their local city area. It comes as The Wildlife Trusts launch their 30 Days Wild challenge, which encourages people to commit Random Acts of Wildness – daily connections with nature – every day for thirty days throughout June. For more information on the poll, click here, and for more on the 30 Days Wild challenge, visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/30DaysWild.
Wednesday, May 31st 2017
IRELAND: Sligo Students Win Environmental Competition
Iga Manulak and Emma Jackson, two students from St. Mary's College in Ballysadare, Co. Sligo, have been selected as winners of the Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘The Story of Your Stuff’ competition. Entrants were asked to take the judges through the life cycle of everyday objects, to show how finite our natural resources are. Iga and Emma chose to tell 'The Story Of A Pencil', from one tree in the Sierra Nevada forest, through all the things that pencils can create, to a compost bin in Ireland, where the 'life cycle' starts again.
To find out more about the competition, visit www.thestoryofyourstuff.ie, and to view the winning video, click play below...