Wildlife park staff compromise their position as conservation rangers by organising hunts for foreign tourists
The Department of the Environment has launched an internal investigation into allegations that some conservation rangers are organising shooting holidays for tourists.
The inquiry was ordered after The Sunday Times discovered that rangers employed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) are involved in the organisation of hunting holidays, even though they are prohibited from doing this under the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour.
Mark Byrne, a conservation ranger who patrols the north Galway region, offers deer-stalking holidays and accommodation for foreign clients. He has circulated material which states that he has brought hunters to remote land in Galway to stalk deer at a cost of between €150 and €700 each.
The promotional material, which shows pictures of slain deer, states that a hunting licence is included in the holiday package. Permits are issued by the NPWS, suggesting a possible conflict of interest.
The NPWS has already accused Robert Lundy, an NPWS ranger from Co Sligo, of compromising his position. He is involved in Tubbercurry Gun Club, which organises shooting holidays for foreign tourists.
Last year Lundy attended a meeting between the commercial gun club and members of an Irish deer-shooting syndicate that had acquired the shooting rights to Moy Forest in Co Sligo.
At the meeting Lundy objected to the syndicate’s members hunting on the land which is owned by Coillte, the state forestry agency. In a telephone conversation he had previously said the lands in question were of interest to his operation and that he would use his influence to ensure that the NPWS did not issue hunting licences to a member of the syndicate.
In a May 11 letter to Ahmed Salman, a member of the syndicate, Pat Warner, manager for the NPWS in the northern division, wrote that he wished to “apologise unreservedly” for Lundy’s conduct.
“There was no clear distinction between his role as an NPWS officer and whatever relationship he may have, in his personal capacity, as a member of the gun club. It is totally unacceptable to us in NPWS that a member of our staff would appear in this light,” wrote Warner. “You will understand, I hope, that I cannot give details of any procedure or sanction, but I can assure you that the matter was taken very seriously.”
Salman, a Dublin-based surgeon, said: “Lundy called me after my syndicate leased the deer-shooting rights to the land. He said my deer shooting would pose a safety issue, but then said we would be interfering with a commercial shoot for woodcock that he was operating on the same lands. He threatened to block my deer hunting licence and told me that he was the local wildlife ranger.”
Documents obtained by The Sunday Times show that Lundy acts as a contact point for foreign tourists who wish to shoot woodcock and snipe in Ireland. The tours are arranged through Orchape, a French tour operator. It gives Lundy’s name as the contact for tourist shooting in the northwest.
Des Crofton, chief executive of the National Association of Regional Game Clubs (NARGC), which represents 28,000 Irish hunters, said his organisation was aware that some wildlife rangers have been engaged in commercial hunting activities and had complained to the NPWS.
“We have passed information on this matter to the NPWS and we expect nothing less than a thorough investigation followed by appropriate action,” said Crofton.
He accused John Gormley, the environment minister, of failing to regulate commercial hunting in Ireland. “There are sections of the 2000 Wildlife Act that would require those involved in deriving financial gain from commercial hunting to obtain a licence. Unfortunately, almost nine years after its enactment by the Oireachtas, the relevant section of the act remains on the shelf.”
A spokesman for Gormley said the department was aware of allegations that involvement in commercial shooting by one or two NPWS staff gave rise to a conflict of interest.
“The department would have serious concerns about any activities of any staff which would constitute a conflict of interest or which would otherwise fall outside the requirements of the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour,” he said.
Lundy did not wish to comment. Calls to Byrne went unanswered.