Ahern should stop complaining about snails, says top biologist

LEADING environmentalist Eanna Ní Lamhna yesterday hit out at “silly nonsense” spoken by people who had no environmental education and who thought humans were the only species on Earth.

The first woman president of An Taisce also said Taoiseach Bertie Ahern should stop complaining about snails and swans holding up roads when it was he who encouraged support for the European treaty which introduced safeguards for wildlife.

Dr Ní Lamhna — a biologist, lecturer and broadcaster — was in Muckross House in Killarney National Park, to launch the country’s first third level degree courses in wildlife biology, which is being run by the Institute of Technology, Tralee.

Commenting on reports which depicted the rare Kerry slug as holding up a new road in Ballyvourney, Co Cork, she said: “Nobody made the point that this slug is not a nuisance holding up development but an indicator species of an ancient wood.”

Dr Ní Lamhna said the slug was protected under the habitats directive of the Maastricht Treaty, but the Taoiseach was at odds with his previous stance on that treaty by complaining about snails and swans holding up major road projects.

“You wouldn’t think he (Bertie Ahern) encouraged people to vote for this treaty,” Dr Ní Lamhna said. She said Eamon de Valera’s emphasis on the Irish language in education had pushed the sciences aside, a policy that produced people with wonderful Irish but without any knowledge of the environment.

That meant the people running this country now, such as county managers and politicians, had learned precious little about the environment.

She stated 40 students will take to the wild all over the southwest as part of first-of-their-kind courses in the country, a major departure for IT, Tralee.

Students will be studying and working in a variety of outdoor settings including parklands, wetlands, mountains, lakes, rivers and the sea throughout their four-year Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Biology (Hons) and a two-year Higher Certificate in Science in Biological and Environmental Studies.

Run in partnership with the Killarney National Park and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the courses will appeal to students with an interest in the sciences and those looking for a career in the great outdoors.

Students will spend at least one day a week on field work in the 26,000 acres of mountain woods and lakes of the park.

Dr Ní Lamhna said there was a growing environmental awareness and the course being offered by the ITT was very timely and at the cusp of this new environmental awareness.

IT, Tralee president Michael Carmody said graduates of the courses will work in fields such as wildlife research, wildlife education, wildlife park rangers and conservation.

“The reaction to the courses has been incredibly positive and our location, in one of the most environmentally rich locations in Ireland, makes it the ideal setting in which to provide these courses,’ he said.

The first intake of 20 students began last month.

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