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.
May is the time of year when biodiversity is in full bloom in our capital city, when wildlife is most active, and becomes most visible to our residents and visitors. The trees are in full leaf, the flowers are in full colour, there are all sorts of bugs, butterflies and bees to be seen, there are animals of all shapes and sizes busy gathering food to feed their young, and perhaps most impressively of all, we have the privilege of waking up each morning to the sound of a spectacular ornithological opera – as the birds of Dublin perform their Dawn Chorus.
Our Dawn Chorus broadcast this year (on May 1st from 00:00 - 06:00) will feature birds from all across Europe and Ireland, and we'll be teaming up with Dublin City Council (DCC) to bring you the spectacular sounds of birdsong from Herbert Park, in Dublin 4.
But our partnership with Dublin City Council doesn't end with the Dawn Chorus! May 2016 has been designated as Biodiversity Month (May 22nd is the UN designated International Day for Biological Diversity), and DCC Parks are linking up with Mooney Goes Wild over the month of May in a number of ways:
1) Flags advertising the Dawn Chorus: these will be flown on the City Quay Walls and throughout the city. Five separate flags will be flown depicting the Blackbird, Robin, Song Thrush, Woodpigeon and Wren. These will be interspersed with Dublin City Of Biodiversity flags.
2) Dawn Chorus installation: from April 20th until May 6th, there will be an installation on the Dawn Chorus and all the other birds which are commonly heard in the early morning birdsong, in the Atrium of the Civic Offices, on Wood Quay. Each morning from 7:30am until 8:30am, the public and staff will hear the Dawn Chorus birdsong recording as they pass through the Atrium. There will be a display in the Atrium Civic Offices on Dublin City Biodiversity from May 9th to May 13th.
3) Biodiversity Month Reports: Mooney Goes Wild has teamed up with DCC to record a series of reports about biodiversity in our city’s parks, open spaces, gardens and the State Nature Reserve at North Bull Island. The team also met with citizens, schoolchildren, communities, scientists and NGO’s who are working with DCC parks staff and the Dublin Bay Biosphere to bring people and nature together to inspire a positive future. These reports will be broadcast on Mooney Goes Wild throughout the month of May. The content of the recordings reflects innovative strategies to conserve biodiversity in Dublin City in line with the Dublin City Biodiversity Action Plan 2015 -2020 and the UNESCO Dublin Bay Biosphere.
The recordings cover such topics as
* The Dublin Urban Birds Project (a collaboration between Dublin City Council and BirdWatch Ireland)
* The Light Bellied Brent Goose Schools project (a collaboration between DCC, BirdWatch Ireland and fourth classes of St Louise’s School in Ballyfermot, St Malachy’s School in Raheny and St Joseph’s School, Marino)
* Cannon Netting of the Light Bellied Brent Goose at North Bull Island by researchers at Exeter University and Dublin City Council Parks Staff (to study the population status of this iconic goose, whose worldwide survival depends on its non-disturbed feeding at North Bull Island, the City’s parks and pitches and other sites around Dublin Bay)
* Blessington Street Basin and the function of DCC Parks staff in maintaining the City’s Flags as part of their Civic decoration function
* The Green Flag Awards for Dublin City’s Parks
* The newly published Dublin City Biodiversity Action Plan 2015-2020, and how it provides a road map for all citizens and organisations and communities to take action to conserve biodiversity
* Recovery Through Nature Programme at North Bull Island (a collaboration between Coolmine Therapeutic Community (CTC) and DCC whereby participants of the CTC programme to remove invasive species and plant flowers for bees as a way of overcoming addiction and maintaining their recovery)
* Where to find Biodiversity in Dublin City, and in Dublin City Council Parks, and how can the public get involved in conservation volunteering work by making their own neighbourhoods and gardens more attractive for wildlife. (How to meet all the NGO’s at the Biodiversity Village at the Battle for The Bay International Kite Surfing Championship)
* Whistle The Hen (how the biodiversity team use a pet hen to demonstrate all the services that we derive from nature and the wonders of birds)
* Dublin Bay Biosphere and the botanical wonders of Dublin Bay, as seen during a field trip to Ireland’s Eye with the Botanical Society Of Britain and Ireland. For more information, visit www.dublinbaybiosphere.ie.
To coincide with these broadcasts, there will be a series on installations and exhibition in The Atrium, Civic Offices, including a Biodiversity/ Dublin Bay Biosphere Roadshow, a display of the artwork generated by the children participating in the Light Bellied Brent Goose Project, and an exhibition on urban bees and pollinators.
4) Dawn Chorus Broadcast: DCC Parks staff are participating in a live broadcast from Herbert Park from midnight to 6am on May 1st, to capture the Dawn Chorus as it happens in Dublin Parks. Staff will facilitate a small number of people from the Dodder Action Group and the South East Area to be present from 4am in the park, at their new community facility “The Hive”, with expert ornithologist Stevie Newton (BirdWatch Ireland) to hear his interpretation of the awakening birdsong
The Dublin City Biodiversity Action Plan 2015-2020
The Dublin City Biodiversity Action Plan 2015-2020 is the second such plan for the City. Its overarching aim is the conservation of biodiversity within the City, and it contains four Themes, which reflect the Strategic Objectives of Ireland’s National Biodiversity Plan (Actions for Biodiversity 2011-2016). The four Themes of the Dublin City Biodiversity Action Plan 2015-2020 are underpinned by twenty-nine Actions, and will continue to build on progress achieved during Dublin City’s first Biodiversity Action Plan
This will rely on a combination of different approaches, including direct and appropriate management of biodiversity at local and regional level, identification and protection of important conservation value areas, enhancing biodiversity conservation within the green infrastructure network, raising awareness and understanding among decision-makers, provision of appropriate guidance to landowners, and changing behaviour among the public towards the protection and appreciation of biodiversity.
The biodiversity of Dublin City includes the wildlife and habitats found at North Bull Island and along the City’s coastline; Phoenix Park and all public parks; the rivers, canals, and their riparian zones, which traverse the City; open spaces linked to historic, educational and other public buildings; roadsides, railway tracks and footpaths; and within residential ‘greens’, private gardens, walls and buildings. Dublin City supports numerous legally-protected habitats, particularly along its coastline, and several legally-protected species, particularly along its waterways and within larger public parks. Click here to read the plan.
For more information about Biodiversity within Dublin City, visit their website, which contains an absolute treasure trove of resources for the public, teachers and schoolchildren. You can find out more about biodiversity in Dublin, learn about our plants, trees, and wildlife, and download a Biodiversity Resource Poster Wildlife, with details of resources for schools in Dublin City. Click here to visit the Dublin City Biodiversity site.
Press Release On Launch Of Biodiversity Month
Wednesday, April 20th 2016
This morning, An tArdmhéara Críona Ní Dhálaigh and Derek Mooney switched on the sounds of the Dawn Chorus to launch the Dublin City Biodiversity Action Plan 2015 – 2020 and Dawn Chorus, at the Civic Offices, Wood Quay, Dublin 8.
Dublin City Biodiversity Action Plan 2015 – 2020 was approved by the Arts, Culture and Recreation Strategic Policy Committee in January 2016. The overarching aim of the plan is the conservation of biodiversity within the city which reflects the Strategic Objectives of Ireland’s National Biodiversity Plan (Actions for Biodiversity 2011-2016)
Speaking at the launch, an tArdmhéara said, “I am delighted to launch the Dublin City Biodiversity Action Plan 2015-2020.
This is a great resource for everyone to learn more about the wide variety of nature, wildlife and habitats around our fair city. I also welcome the City Councils collaboration with ‘Mooney Goes Wild’ and look forward to the many events that will take place for Biodiversity month which begins with the Dawn Chorus on May 1st.
‘Tá mé ag tnúth le ceiliúr na camhaoire a chloisteáil go moch ar maidin."
RTÉ Radio 1’s The Dawn Chorus has become a radio phenomenon in Ireland. Every summer, for more than two decades, Derek Mooney and his Mooney Goes Wild team have broadcast the sounds of early morning birdsong into Irish homes on RTÉ Radio One, the main national radio station.
"It's a joy to team up with Dublin City Council. I think that it's really important that the Council has a biodiversity plan for its citizens” said Derek Mooney, “We are blessed in Dublin - we've got beautiful park lands, striking coastlines and we're only a short hop from the mountains. In each of those habitats, birds are present and I am delighted to share the sounds of early morning birdsong with you as part of the Dawn Chorus”.