A unique new research project into Bovine TB and badgers has begun in the Banbridge area.
The Test and Vaccinate or Remove (TVR) Wildlife Intervention Research Project started last week.
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill announced the launch of the project on Tuesday.
“The TVR Wildlife Intervention Research Project has commenced in a 100km² area around Banbridge. This project is unique to these islands and involves seeking access permission from land owners, setting humane traps to capture badgers, taking samples from badgers, microchipping and vaccinating them against Bovine TB or where they test positive for TB, removing them.
“The aim of the TVR research project is to describe the effects of implementing a test and vaccinate or remove intervention on badgers in an area of high cattle TB prevalence, such as in the Banbridge area. It will also greatly add to our knowledge base and provide currently unknown data on badgers. The TVR research project will run for five years between May and December each year.”
The first stage of the project is to establish the initial level of TB in badgers and, by the vaccination of badgers, reduce the possible effects from potential perturbation when infected badgers are removed from next year.
The Minister encouraged all land owners to complete their permission slip recently issued by the Department to those in the TVR area.
She explained: “A Department researcher will call and collect permission slips over the coming weeks. We had an excellent uptake rate for last years’ Badger Sett Survey at 82%, but we now need uptake for TVR as close to 100% as possible.”
In closing the Minister also said: “I would also ask farming representatives and environmental groups to encourage all land owners in the 100km² area around Banbridge to give permission for DARD staff to implement the TVR Project on their land. This is an immensely important piece of research into bovine TB which I know will add to the pool of international knowledge and assist in designing the longer term path to eradication.”
The Northern Ireland Badger Group said they support the TVR project.
A representative of the group said: “We back the TVR study as it’s science based. We would like to see 100% of landowners taking part. Badgers are scapegoats in TB.
“No TB herd breakdown has been proven to have been caused by Badgers, lets deal with fact not fiction in the TB debate.”