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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.

Below is a list of various nature and wildlife websites, and links to various documents of interest. And remember, sharing is caring! So if you come across a website that you think might be of interest to the rest of our listeners, do let us know - e-mail the details to, and we'll add it to the list below!

RTÉ is not responsible for the content of external websites.

General (Irish Wildlife Trust) (National Parks & Wildlife Service) (National Biodiversity Data Centre) (Wild Things At School - A Book For Primary School Teachers, by Eanna ni Lamhna - pdf document, 72 pages) (National Museum of Ireland, including Natural History Museum) (The National Trust for Ireland) (Irish Environmental Network) (ecological research within the School of Biological Sciences, Queens University, Belfast) (Wildlife First Aid information) (Agriculture and Food Development Authority) (Biodiversity Awareness website) (Friends Of The Earth) (Wildlife in Wexford) (Wexford Naturalists Field Club) (Wildlife in Cork) (Ireland's Wildlife) (ENFO - Environmental Information) (Environmental Protection Agency) (Northern Ireland Environment Agency) (Plant life, animal life, minerals, rocks & fossils of Northern Ireland) (Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000) (Guide To Habitats In Ireland, pdf document - 115 pages long) (Children's Nature Charity) (Biodiversity In Your School, pdf document - 12 pages) (wildlife photography) (created by author, speaker and birdwatcher Declan Murphy)

Mammals (The Vincent Wildlife Trust in Ireland) (Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats) (Bats & Traditional Farm Buildings) (Bats In Houses - Guidance For Householders) (Conserving & Enhancing Wildlife in Towns and Villages)

Birds (Spring Alive migratory birds project) (official site for Golden Eagle, White Tailed Eagle, Red Kite & Hen Harrier projects) (the website of our own Eric Dempsey)

Insects (FIBKA - Federation of Irish Beekeepers' Associations) (Pollinators In Ireland)

Marine (Irish Whale & Dolphin Group) (website of Mooney Goes Wild's resident marine biologist)

Flora (Irish National Forestry Foundation) (Irish Peatland Conservation Council) (Irish Seed Saver Association)

Wildlife News (Environmental News Network)



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Twitter: @NatureRTE

Presenter: Derek Mooney

Series Producer: Ana Leddy


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