Written Answers. - Badger Population.

Trevor Sargent


75 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of badgers killed under the cull agreed under the terms of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness; if a pre-eradication survey was conducted in the relevant areas; if not, the way in which the Government can verify that populations have not been reduced below the 20% figure specified by the Berne Convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19210/03]

The PPF, in addition to existing arrangements relating to wildlife, provided that a proactive approach would be adopted in each district veterinary office area by using 75 dedicated Department and farm relief service personnel to remove all sources of infection in the 20% of the country which yields some 50% of TB reactors.

To this end my Department has established a wildlife unit that will oversee all wildlife removal operations here. Staff have been recruited and located in those areas identified as being hotspot areas. New computer programmes have been developed and placed in all offices to facilitate the new arrangements.

The number of badgers examined in 2001 was below target due to the foot and mouth disease outbreak. The number of badgers removed last year was significantly higher. Last year's figures have yet to be validated. It is estimated from this and other research that the level of Tuberculosis in badgers is at least 20%.

The national population of badgers is estimated at 200,000. Badger removals are undertaken in accordance with licences issued by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. One of the conditions of such licences is that badger populations are not reduced below 20%.