Written Answers. - Endangered Species.

91.

asked the Minister for Finance the action which is being taken to assess scientifically the loss of habitat of important and endangered species in this country; if he will outline the present situation regarding the possible loss of such habitat and such species; the action he proposes to take in order to ensure the conservation and protection of such species; if his attention has been drawn to a British publication (details supplied) which concluded that 1,800 of Britain's 22,800 insect species are threatened and over 500 are in imminent danger of extinction; and if there are any parallels of such a threat in this country.

My Department has an inventory of areas of scientific importance which is constantly updated. Research into the habitat of important and endangered species is ongoing.

Areas of scientific importance include peatlands, grasslands, fens, bird sites, dune systems, woodlands, coastal heathlands and marine areas. Such ecosystems are protected under the Wildlife Act, 1976, by creating nature reserves of available sites. Most are State owned but there are also some protected sites in private ownership. It is my intention to protect as many sites as possible, if necessary by acquisition of the areas in question and subject to finance being available.

I am aware of the British publication referred to and, while research in Ireland into the various insect species in this country is ongoing in my Department, much remains to be done. I am advised that the threat to insect species in this country would be at a level similar to that in the UK.