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Belfast City Council to examine bird culling alternatives

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Protection: Greylag geese roaming in Victoria Park in east Belfast

Protection: Greylag geese roaming in Victoria Park in east Belfast

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Protection: Greylag geese roaming in Victoria Park in east Belfast

The council has agreed to look at alternatives to bird culling at Victoria Park in east Belfast.

The city council-owned park is beside George Best Belfast City Airport, and because the wildlife haven attracts large geese, the birds are culled.

Bird strikes are rare and mostly cause little damage, but they can be a threat to flight safety.

City Hall's permission is needed to carry out unhatched egg management of the greylag goose population.

The licence for this process has been in force for 19 years.

Green Party councillor Anthony Flynn brought forward a motion at a council meeting which was agreed by all members.

It says "the management of the bird population, such as pricking and oiling of unhatched eggs, has significantly reduced the population in the park".

It also requests a review of culling and suggests more modern methods may be available.

Mr Flynn said there was evidence to suggest the park's bird population had fallen.

"Ten years ago there were about 60 swans. Now there's a fraction of that," he added.

"What this motion seeks to do is have a review of that permission that we gave.

"Every single year it has to be reconstituted by our officers.

"I have engaged with our officers and we have engaged with the airport. Everyone is happy to move along with this.

"We are not looking to stop the process altogether. That would be the wrong thing to do.

"We need to engage with all of the relevant organisations, including the airport and the Civil Aviation Authority, to see if there is anything else that is new or best practice.

"Of course, if it ends up that this is the only way we can ensure the health and safety of flights leaving and entering the airport, then unfortunately we have to continue with it."

Alliance councillor Michelle Kelly, who seconded the motion, said: "We recognise the health and safety risks geese can pose to aircraft. All we are asking is if egg oiling is the best method to control the population.

"We all know what a haven Victoria Park is for so many types of wildlife - so much so that the open water in the park is actually part of the Belfast Lough area of special scientific interest project. It is a real gem in east Belfast.

"It is only right that we work with the experts to ensure that the methods used to control the population are the most up-to-date and, most importantly, the most humane.

"There is evidence that because geese work as bonded pairs when raising their young, the destruction of the eggs can create stress and trauma for the adult birds.

"I look forward to (investigating) the options before the licence is issued next year."

Belfast Telegraph