As dawn is about to break on a late November morning in frostbitten Ennis, George and Sarah embark on their routine stroll back to their shelter in the nearby woods. They leave behind them the sparse remains of a midnight feast. Two empty bowls lay idle on the footpath until a lady appears and collects them. She washes both bowls out by hand in her bathroom sink and sets them aside for later that evening.
The lady in question is a resident of Pairc na Coille retirement village who wishes to remain nameless. George and Sarah are Badgers, both part of the same clan that resides in the woodland across the road. Plans to bulldoze the woodland and turn it into a housing development have been keeping the lady in question up at night. On those sleepless nights, she peeks out the window and watches George and his plump twin sister gorge on cat food, plums, pears and some left-over potato provided by the friendly Polish lady. He shares her sentiments towards this proposed development. She like herself is a nature lover and empathizes with her concerns.
Mrs. B, for convenience’s sake, is alarmed by the thought of the wooded area next to her home being destroyed forever. She spends a portion of her day birdwatching the skies above the trees from her window and wakes up on summer mornings to birdsong and the smell of
Pelargoniums growing wild nearby. The view from her room consists of flowering hedgerows and native trees in summer and the frantic activity of feeding birds in winter. The view and the animals keep her company when the family are unable to travel. The pandemic has increased this need for company.
George and Sarah are nocturnal creatures and part of the wider European badger family. These animals are protected under the Wildlife Act, 1976 and Wildlife Amendment Act, 2000 as well as under Appendix III of the Berne Convention. The last comprehensive habitat survey took place in 1995 but through the extrapolation of data from four counties since then, it has been determined that the population has been in decline in recent years. Today, the Irish population is estimated to be somewhere in the region of 86,000.
We cannot underestimate the importance of sites such as the one at Pairc na Coille. By allowing for its unnecessary destruction, we will be setting an extremely dangerous precedent. Sites that support the ecology of an area otherwise made up of roads and buildings are in urgent need of preservation. They are windows into the natural world, invaluable amenities to residents and home to creatures like George and Sarah. The routine feeding of these two animals, allowing for some extra winter calories before they return to their sett in the woods is a beautiful picture. But, we are in danger of losing focus as our towns lose more green spaces and wild areas.
The residents at Pairc na Coille urge the council and the board to take into account how special this area is for the community and the wildlife therein. It is imperative that this planning application is rejected and an alternative site is found for housing. The health and well-being of the residents and wildlife are at stake and the survival of countless species for the town depends on its existence.