A prominent rewilding campaigning has told an Irish climate change conference that Killarney National Park is in a "terrible state" and being overrun by invasive species.
Eoghan Daltun, who released an acclaimed book about restoring nature on his west Cork farm, told the DCU Centre for Climate and Society's annual conference that there is still hope of reviving the national park despite claiming that "ecological wreckage" had taken place there over the course of several decades.
Daltun said it is "inexcusable" that the national park has been allowed to descend into overgrazed land over the past 50 years, adding that it is overrun by invasive species.
Daltun remarked that parks like Killarney National Park are all that are left of the forests and wildlands that used to make up 80% of Ancient Ireland. He remarked that, today, only 1% of Ireland is covered by forests but said Killarney National Park was still being "ecologically thrashed".
Overgrazing by cattle and wild deer has damaged plant life in the park to such an extent that only invasive species like rhododendron can survive there, Daltun told the conference.
Despite painting what he described as a "dismal picture", Daltun said there is hope for Killarney National Park and pointed to the rewilding of his own farm in Beara, County Cork.
Daltun said there was an "eruption" of wildflowers and insects on his farm after he erected a fence to keep deer and goats away.
"Rewilding is about making space for nature to return. When we remove artificial impediments, nature can come roaring back," he told the conference.
"It is about allowing ecosystems to function and regulate...taking away what is hindering them from thriving."
Daltun is the author of the acclaimed book "An Irish Atlantic Rainforest: A Personal Journey into the Magic of Rewilding".