What about Ireland’s endangered species?

I had the pleasure of attending Edinburgh Zoo for the past week. It was a special experience with rare and exotic animals on display, including the giant panda, anteaters and armadillos. Of course our local zoo at Fota Wildlife Park in Cork is also a wonderful facility, but it was nice to see a different range of animals that I hadn’t seen in real life before.

That got me thinking about Ireland’s endangered species, Gay Agricola Hibernia. Our native species has survived for thousands of years; spread across the country, from the lowlands to the mountains.

Figures suggest up to 935,000 occupied Ireland’s land base in 1845. By 1913, the population had fallen to 359,000, falling to 313,000 in 1955, 263,000 in 1980, 170,000 in 1991. The figures stabilized somewhat in the late 1990s at about 140,000, and remained relatively stable over the next two decades – although there has been severe decline in certain parts of rural Ireland where the land type has been more challenging.

Across the EU, the decline in populations of their native species has been repeated, an alarming 33% drop between 2003 and 2013 alone. The entire EU population of the Gay Agricola has been monitored and regulated for many years and as such the decline in numbers has happened with the explicit knowledge of EU and state organizations.

While numbers have stabilized here in Ireland, the population health of the species has nevertheless been weakening, with some critical warnings pointing to the potential for further demise.

The replacement rate has been particularly low in recent decades and the age profile of the species is aging, suggesting that the population could become extinct if conditions are not introduced to encourage a new breeding program.

Conservation efforts have been made with a mix of EU and national funding to support improved habitats and provide a basic level of livelihood. However, the species is increasingly suffering from habitat degradation, with other non-native animals invading the natural environment and driving out competition for resources.

Many of the native species can no longer survive in their habitat and depend on nourishment from outside their habitat for survival. Despite maintaining population numbers, the native creatures must now be considered vulnerable due to the external pressures on their environment.

This past week has announced perhaps the biggest changes to the plight of our native species of all time, making it even more difficult for this species to survive in the wild. It is now plausible that the species will become critically endangered and may even deteriorate and even reach extinction status in the wild.

The species Gay Agricola Hibernia is of course better known as “the Irish peasant”.

Assuming that the majority of Western civilization is simultaneously reducing production due to limiting factors on fertilizer use, stocking density and other restrictions in the name of reducing carbon emissions, I expect a tipping point will be reached where agricultural production will fall significantly below demand falls.

A suspicion of such a scenario arose as early as this year when farmers were asked to expand their tillage areas to support grain production as a result of the conflict unfolding in Ukraine.

I expect that it is only at that point that the value of a productive class of Gay Agricola will really come to light, whether the shackles of regulation will be shed and whether they will have the capacity to step up to the plate and ramp up food production when this happens is questionable.

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