Young members of the Riverine Environmental Project in Strabane, County Tyrone made an impressive discovery last week after capturing images of a pine marten rare in the area.
Seven-year-old Josh Cairns spotted an animal trail in the undergrowth and decided to place the camera, before returning 48 hours later to take pictures of the animal.
At first it was hard to tell who the creature was on the small screen of the camera, but after seeing it several times another of the young members of the project suggested that it could be the elusive marten. Pines.
It was only when the images were downloaded to a computer that it was possible to identify the animal with certainty.
A member of the weasel family, the pine marten lives in wooded areas and feeds on small rodents, birds, insects and fruits.
They were thought to have all but disappeared from Ireland by 1900 due to habitat loss and hunting for their fur, but in recent decades their population appears to be recovering and spreading across the country from from a few pockets of County Down and Fermanagh.
Pine martens have already been sighted in Strabane, but it is believed to be the first time the animal has been filmed.
The successful first phase of the Riverine project enabled residents of the Strabane and Lifford regions to become involved in their environment through opportunities for learning, exploration and environmental action.
The second phase of the project was launched earlier this month.
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Riverine Project Manager Allan Bogle said: “This program is designed to educate people about the environment. Through education and exploration, we really saw the participants really connect to their surroundings.
“Our animal cameras gave us a glimpse of a hidden world that would not be possible to see without this technology.”
Project Director Noelle Donnell, Hummingbird (NI), added: “We have a lovely group of young participants who are passionate and excited about our local biodiversity and everyone, young and old, is learning from each other by course. “
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