On J. Ashton Freeman’s anniversary, we delve deep into the archives with RTÉ Radio Archivist Rob Canning, to learn about the times when RTÉ wildlife presenters told stories about harpooning whales whilst performing their own sound effects! Gerard Lanigan, from the Éire Budgerigar Society, has advice on how to teach a budgie to talk. And we meet musician Steve Ludwin, a man who has been injecting himself with snake venom for 30 years, as "Venom – Killer and Cure" opens at the Natural History Museum in London; Dr Ronald Jenner, Venom Evolution expert, has the details of this fascinating exhibition. On your panel tonight, with their thoughts on all these stories, are Dr. Richard Collins and Eanna ni Lamhna...
On his way down to the canteen here in the RTÉ Radio Centre earlier this week, Derek bumped into our colleague Rob from our Archives department. He asked if the name, J. Ashton Freeman, meant anything to Derek? J. Ashton Freeman was a popular broadcaster of nature programmes on this very station back in the 1950s and 60s. This month marks the 50th anniversary of his death and Rob Canning, Radio Archivist with RTÉ Archives (www.rte.ie/archives), has dropped into the studio to tell us more about this broadcasting trailbrazer...
Rob Canning from RTÉ Archives with (r) an acetone recording similar to the type that J. Ashton Freeman's contributions were recorded on
J. Ashton Freeman's Advice Regarding Budgerigars
Rob has brought with him an archived letter, which was written to J. Ashton Freeman from a young listener - Aiden Quinlan from Cork - who in 1961 asked:
"Dear Mr Freeman – we have a budgie that will not talk. I have him two years and all he says is ‘hello Billy’ and ‘hello Billy, where are the birdies?’ What shall I do? Your friend - Aiden Quinlan"
A truncated version of J. Ashton Freeman's reply (which ran to four pages) included the advice "You must learn how to teach a budgie to talk before you can teach that budgie to talk... Budgerigars are not as intelligent as human beings and it takes a budgie at least three weeks to learn to say one short sentence and that short sentence has be to repeated over and over again during at least three different periods of the day". He adds that it’s a tedious but not difficult job to teach a budgie to talk – and to remember that it’s only the sound of the words that he learns – not the meaning.
So was this the correct advice? We're joined on the line now by Gerard Lanigan who is Show Secretary and Treasurer of the Éire Budgerigar Society – celebrating their 65th birthday this year! For more information on the society visit www.eirebudgerigarsociety.org.
We also chat about a very celebrated talking budgie: Disco!
Many of you will have fond memories of the classic RTÉ children's TV series Wanderly Wagon. It ran from 1967 until 1982, and featured such memorable characters as Rory, O'Brien, Godmother, Judge the Dog and Sneaky Snake (who was voiced by the fabulous Frank Kelly - who was more recently known for the playing Fr. Jack in Father Ted).
Snakes might be sneaky, but the bite of a snake can be deadly serious. This next item is not for the faint-hearted – and it goes without saying that you should NOT try this at home.
Many health experts see snake bites as a critical and neglected public health issue. At least 100,000 people die annually from snake bites, and 300,000 more are permanently disfigured, according to the World Health Organization. Nowhere is the issue more acute than in developing countries, where most snake bites occur, and where people can neither access nor afford anti-venom drugs.
Top left: Steve Ludwin; top right: Dr. Ronald Jenner; bottom image: rattlesnake (photo by Foto-RaBe / Pixabay)
Enter musician Steve Ludwin, a member of the bands "Carrie" and "Little Hell" – who also co-writes songs with Slash from Guns ‘N’ Roses, Placebo, Ash and others. Steve has been injecting himself regularly with snake venom for 30 years in a bid to create anti-venom made from human blood for the first time. It’s hoped that this will create cost effective and safe anti-venoms for snake-bite victims. Steve also feels that there could be compelling anti-aging side effects - and an overall strengthening of the human immune system.
Steve Ludwin joins us now from the BBC studios in London, as does Dr Ronald Jenner, Venom Evolution expert at London’s Natural History Museum - which has just opened an exhibition entitled "Venom – Killer and Cure"...
Hedgerows: It is an offence to 'cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy hedgerows on uncultivated land during the nesting season from 1 March to 31 August, subject to certain exceptions'. For more information, click here.
UPDATE: February 29th 2016 - Press Release From BirdWatch Ireland:
Putting the record straight: Dates for burning and hedge-cutting have NOT changed
BirdWatch Ireland, Ireland’s largest conservation charity, is very concerned about misinformation that is currently circulating regarding the dates within which the burning of vegetation and cutting of hedges is permitted. It would like to remind landowners that all burning and cutting must cease on 29th February this year and that burning and cutting remains prohibited from 1st March to 31st August.
Despite attempts by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys T.D., to change the laws regulating these dates by introducing the Heritage Bill 2016 earlier this year, it is important to note that the proposed date changes were ultimately NOT made. This is because the bill failed to pass through both houses of the Oireachtas before the recent dissolution of the Dáil in advance of the general election.
The laws in place governing the dates for hedge-cutting and upland burning therefore remain unchanged. The period within which cutting and burning is prohibited are set down in Section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976 (as amended in 2000), which states that:
(a) It shall be an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy, during the period beginning on the 1st day of March and ending on the 31st day of August in any year, any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated.
(b) It shall be an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch during the period mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection (above).
The existing law provides exemptions for road safety and other circumstances and should be read carefully to ensure compliance.
Section 40 of the Wildlife Act exists to protect nesting birds. Many of our upland bird species are in decline and are in danger of extinction in Ireland; amongst them is the Curlew, which has declined by 80%. Many birds which nest in hedgerows into August are also in serious decline, including the endangered Yellowhammer. The changes to the cutting and burning dates which had been proposed in the now-defunct Heritage Bill 2016 would have caused serious impacts to these birds. A petition launched by BirdWatch Ireland in conjunction with several other national conservation organisations to stop these changes attracted more than 16,200 signatures and rising.
BirdWatch Ireland would also like to advise members of the public that if they see hedges being cut or fires in the uplands on or after 1st March, such activity could be illegal. In such cases, we would encourage people to contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service (www.npws.ie) to report such activity.
BirdWatch Ireland warmly welcomes the demise of the Heritage Bill 2016 and sincerely hopes that any future administration will consider the importance of Ireland’s natural heritage and will not attempt to reintroduce such a flawed and damaging piece of legislation.
To contact your local wildlife ranger, click here for contact details. To read the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, click here.
Please DO NOT send any live, dead or skeletal remains of any creature whatsoever to Mooney Goes Wild.
If you find an injured animal or bird, please contact the National Parks & Wildlife Service on 1890 20 20 21, or BirdWatch Ireland, on 01 281-9878, or visit www.irishwildlifematters.ie