The idea that we should manage one species of animal to protect another is one of today’s touchstone issues.
The idea of culling one animal or bird to help another survive or even return to a viable population level is more often than not dismissed as neanderthal.
Yet, in extreme circumstances, almost invariably circumstances created by humans, there is little realistic alternative.
Birdwatch Ireland, those admirable champions of our ever-more threatened birds, has secured a licence to kill some seagulls on Rockabill Island off Dublin because some gulls are preying on Roseate tern nests.
There were fewer than 500 pairs of Roseate terns in 1990s but Rockabill now hosts around 1,600 pairs, an estimated 80% of Europe’s population.
A cull is always a last resort but it inevitability begs a question: Why is it always deferred until it is almost too late to help the threatened species? Irish salmon stocks are threatened as never before but our seal population is soaring. These facts are not unrelated and to pretend otherwise is just another betrayal of our wildlife heritage.