Play your part in helping nature

May is many people’s favourite month, as we witness nature and new life burst forth in all their glory, writes Donal Hickey.

For such reasons, the timing of National Biodiversity Week, May 19-28, is apt. It’s all about highlighting the importance of nature, connecting people with it and motivating them to play their part in protecting it.

According to the Heritage Council, 57% of us are not aware of any species under threat — an alarming statistic, given all the warnings that are regularly given about animals struggling for survival in the wild.

This year, there’s a tourism theme to Biodiversity Week and the importance of landscape in attracting visitors. The irony, of course, is that, yet again, we’ve seen the illegal burning of thousands of acres of forestry, moorland and mountainside in gorse fires in West Cork, Kerry, Mayo, Galway and other areas where scenery is important.

Such burning is banned from March 1, but the law is flouted annually with dreadful consequences for the nature, not to mention the stress caused to people who see their homes threatened by out-of-control fires.

The coming week, however, is all about the positives and the fun and wonder to be experienced out there. Upwards of 30 environmental groups have organised events free of charge and led by wildlife experts, including bat walks, urban beekeeping, whale watching and ecovillage tours, to give a few examples.

The Irish Environmental Network is offering people the chance to win two tickets to its flagship event: A moonlight kayak to witness magical lights on Lough Hyne, near Skibbereen, Co Cork, this Weds (May 19), at 9pm.

The lough, a nature reserve of European standing, is home to marine life which emit light at night called bioluminescence, reflecting pale blue lights on the water. Some people have described it as “like you are paddling through the stars’’.

Lough Hyne is a seawater lake, but it was a freshwater lake until 4,000 years ago when sea levels rose and flooded it through a narrow creek known as ‘The Rapids’.

The result is an unusual habitat of warm, oxygenated seawater, which sustains a spectacular variety of marine plants and animals including 72 species of fish, 73 kinds of sea slug and more than 100 sponges. Many of these species are not native to Ireland and are not found anywhere else on the island.

To be in with a chance of winning tickets, contestants are asked to send an email with their name and address to office@ien.ie. Tickets are only available for Biodiversity Week’s Flagship event at Lough Hyne.

The Irish Environmental Network is also holding a photography competition — Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism.


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