Measures to protect the Kerry Slug, a protected species, have been outlined at the An Bord Pleanála oral hearing into the Kerry Greenway.
Because the Kerry slug, also known as Geomalachus maculosus, is listed in the habitats directive, it is strictly protected from injury, or disturbance or damage to any breeding or resting place wherever it occurs, Kerry County Council ecologists explained.
Any disturbance requires licences from the Department of Culture and the Gaeltacht.
The slugs will suffer from “unmitigated noise disturbance” and habitat loss in the construction of the 32 km South Kerry Greenway , Muiread Kelly, senior ecologist with Malachy Walsh and Partners for the council said.
“The loss of 2,100 metres square of suitable rock habitat at Drung Hill to facilitate the placement of rock gabions is expected to have a permanent moderate to significant negative impact on the Kerry slug in the absence of mitigation. There is potential, during the construction phase for direct mortality to occur,” Ms Kelly, said.
A like-for-like habitat has been identified and a license for pre-construction studies, trapping, hand searches and translocation has been granted by the Department of Culture and Heritage, she said.
According to the Environmental Impact Assessment Report suitable habitats along the route are fairly limited because it is managed land.
Ms Kelly’s fellow ecologist Patrick Ryan was asked about a “novel approach” involving yoghurt which is to be painted on rocks for the slug’s benefit.
All of the rocks at Drung Hill were to be painted in yoghurt, but the National Parks and Wildlife who vetted the ecologists' reports said painting 50% would be sufficient, Mr Ryan said. The yoghurt would encourage lichen to grow and there will be a very comprehensive post construction monitoring programme of the yoghurt for three years, he said.
Unveiled in 2014, the greenway run into difficulties because of route design and the decision by the council to move to compulsory purchase order of the dozens of small land parcels running through small farms along the N70 ring of Kerry.
The 3-metre wide paved surface for walkers and cyclists mainly along the “abandoned” rail way , may take a year and a half to construct.
Cllr Johnny Healy-Rae, who is attending the hearing in Tralee said the best thing to do with the slug now would be” to fire him” into the sea at Renard.
“If the same amount of time and energy and expense was put into consulting with the landowners as to counting the slug, we might have no need for an oral hearing,” he said.
The council says the greenway is necessary to save the western Iveragh area from continuing depopulation. However farmers and the IFA nationally fear the use of the CPO instrument will set a precedent.
The hearing in Tralee continues.