Mooney Goes Wild, Sunday January 14th 2018

Second Chance Sundays

Over the coming weeks, we'll be giving you another chance to hear some of our Mooney Goes Wild programmes uncovered from the radio archive here in RTÉ. Please tune into RTÉ Radio 1 Sunday nights at 6pm. Click the links below for more information. 

24th March 2019, (6pm), The Dance of the Cuckoos - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

31st March 2019, (6pm), The Blue Whale - Mooney Goes Wild Special

07th April 2019, (6pm), Feathers - Mooney Goes Wild Special

14th April 2019, (6pm), Bergen Whale - Mooney Goes Wild Special

21st April 2019, (6pm), Sparrows  - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

28th April 2019, (6pm), Wildlife Film Makers - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

05th May 2019, (6pm), The Wren (More Detail Soon) - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

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On Mooney Goes Wild tonight: Special - The Bergen Whale

Viewed from space, the Earth looks like a blue marble.  Its oceans are, far and away, its defining visual characteristic.  They are home to the largest animals that have ever lived: whales.  Some whale species favour surface waters, while other dive to extraordinary depths.  The deepest diver of all is Cuvier’s Beaked Whale, a species which dives so deeply, in fact, that it is rarely ever seen by humans, except when the occasional individual beaches itself or a corpse is washed ashore.

Left: Image Credit: NASA's Earth Observatory; right: Image Credit: University Museum of Bergen

One of the most recent live strandings of this near-mythical creature occurred in January 2017 on the island of Sotra, close to the city of Bergen, on the southwestern coast of Norway.  The whale was still clinging to life when discovered, but it was in very poor health and suffering greatly.  After several unsuccessful attempts to coax it back out to sea failed, the difficult decision was made to put the poor creature out of its misery.

The whale’s sad death gave scientists and marine researchers an unprecedented opportunity to try to work out what exactly had happened to this Cuvier's Beaked Whale.  A post-mortem was carried out, and the reason for the whale’s distress soon became horrifyingly apparent.  In its stomach were found at least 30 plastic bags.  With so much undigestible plastic clogging its digestive tract, the whale had little room left for food.  It was slowly, painfully starving to death when it ran aground.  It could not have survived.

Image Credit: University Museum of Bergen

To find out more about the story of this whale, and the enormous problems that plastic pollution cause for marine life around the world, presenter Derek Mooney and zoologist Dr. Richard Collins travelled to Bergen, in Norway.  There, they spoke with Helge Søfteland, a producer with NRK, the Norwegian national broadcaster.  He told them about how the story generated a huge media interest around the world in plastic pollution in our seas...

Left: Helge Søfteland; Right: Image Credit: University Museum of Bergen


Terje Lislevand is Associate Professor in the Department of Natural History, at the University Museum of Bergen.  He shows Derek and Richard the various plastic bags that were found inside the stomach of the whale, which are now housed inside the Museum...

Images from the University Museum of Bergen; bottom right: Dr. Richard Collins (l) with Prof. Terje Lislevand (r)

Images from the University Museum of Bergen; display of the plastics bags found in the stomach of the Bergen Whale; Prof. Terje Lislevand; 15 tonnes of plastics end up in the ocean every minute; Richard Collins & Helge Søfteland outside the University Museum of Bergen

To learn more about the Bergen Whale, visit or click below to watch the video (in Norwegian with English subtitles)...

To watch the Sky News documentary A Plastic Whale, click here.


So how can we protect our seas and oceans?  Can we, individually, have any impact?  One man who has dedicated his life to removing plastic from our oceans is Kenneth Bruvik.  He has been on a mission to clean the Norwegian coast, as he explained to Derek and Richard...

Top left: Richard Collins, Kenneth Bruvik & Helge Søfteland; top right & bottom left: some of the litter found during the clean-up; bottom right: Richard Collins & Kenneth Bruvik

From left: Kenneth Bruvik on the boat; Richard Collins & Kenneth Bruvik; Kenneth with Helge; Richard & Kenneth examine some of the plastic little they have found


Plastic is seen as utterly disposable - and yet it simply doesn’t go away: a single plastic bottle will remain intact for over 100 years without decomposing.  Other plastics will persist for more than a millennium, buried in landfill sites, clogging our rivers or polluting our beaches.  We are producing more and more of it: around 350 million tonnes per year, and rising.  By 2050, the weight of the plastic in our oceans will exceed the weight of the fish.

Dr. Lisa Emelia Svensson; Photo by IISD/ENB | Francis Dejon

Dr. Lisa Emelia Svensson is the Director for Ocean, at the UN Environment, heading up the marine and coastal ecosystem work program.  She talks to Derek about what is being done by international governments to combat marine pollution...

For further information about the work of the UN Environment regarding our oceans, visit


Rowan Byrne

Rowan Byrne is Principal Marine Environmental Scientist for the global engineering consultants Mott McDonald, and is shocked and horrified by the sheer scale of the problem.  He tells Derek about a conference he in organised in June 2017, in the English university town of Cambridge, which aimed to bring together interested parties to discuss solutions to the problem of marine litter and pollution.  He also discusses fatbergs, and the problems that flushing wet wipes down the toilet can cause...  For more advice on what not to flush, visit

For further information about Rowan, click here.


Niall Hatch

Whales are far from the only creatures that are being severely harmed by the huge quantities of plastic that have entered our marine ecosystem.  A vast range of molluscs, crustaceans, fish, turtles and birds are also suffering due to our folly, greed and neglect.  Niall Hatch, who is Development Officer with BirdWatch Ireland, is extremely concerned about the effects of plastics on marine life and has been seeing the problem growing.  He tells Derek about the impact of plastic on Ireland's seabirds...

For more information on BirdWatch Ireland, visit


Heidi Acampora

Dr. Heidi Acampora, a Postdoctoral researcher in the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology's Marine and Freshwater Research Centre, has been examining the infiltration of marine food chains by plastic litter, as well as the dire consequences for the marine animals that are unfortunate enough to consume it.  She tells Derek and Richard Collins more about her research, and about why one bird species, the Fulmar, appears to have been hit especially hard by the abundance of plastic around the Irish coast.

To read more about the work Heidi has been doing, visit


Dr. Simon Berrow with the skull of a Cuvier's Beaked Whale

According to a recent study, marine debris has been found in 8.5% of whales and dolphins in Ireland.  In one of the largest studies of this kind undertaken, it was discovered that amongst 528 creatures autopsied, a massive 93% contained plastics.  Dr. Simon Berrow is a Lecturer at GMIT, an Executive Officer of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group ( and Project Manager at the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation (  He was also a co-author on this study; he told Derek that while larger marine debris is widespread, the smaller fractions, known as microplastics, were found in all compartments of the digestive tracts of all those individuals examined for them.  Another finding was that plastic bags were the most frequently recorded item found in deep diving whales...

For more information on this study, which was carried out by GMIT, UCC & IWDG, visit

***To view more photos from the making of this special edition of Mooney Goes Wild, please visit our Flickr page!***

First Broadcast 14th of January 2018

Repeated RTÉ Radio 1, 14th of April 2019

Mooney Goes Wild presented by Derek Mooney airs Monday nights 10PM RTÉ Radio 1. Please visit our programme archive at the top right of this webpage for previous programmes, documentaries and podcasts. You can contact us at


Statement from BirdWatch Ireland, Thurs Feb 28th 2019:

BirdWatch Ireland wishes to remind the public, local authorities and contractors that hedge-cutting is NOT permitted between 1st March and 31st August inclusive, except in the case of any of the derogations permitted under the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended. The Heritage Act 2018 gives the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the power to make certain changes to these dates, but it is important to note that, as yet, the Minister has not done so. As a result, the usual dates when hedge-cutting is prohibited currently remain unchanged.

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.  To read the Heritage Bill 2016, as passed by Dáil Éireann on July 5th 2018, click here.  To read the Heritage Act 2018, click here.

To contact your local wildlife ranger, click here for contact details. To read the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, click here.

Caring For Wild Animals

Please note that many species of mammals, birds, invertebrates etc... are protected under law and that, even with the best of intentions, only someone holding a relevant licence from the National Parks & Wildlife Service should attempt the care of these animals.  For full details, please click here to read the NPWS Checklist of protected & rare species in Ireland.  If you are concerned about a wild animal, please contact your local wildlife ranger - click here for details.


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



Contact the Show

Presenter: Derek Mooney

Series Producer: Ana Leddy


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