A novel conservation project is seeking to enlist the help of young farmers and farm families in saving the native barn owl.

Once considered the farmer’s friend because their natural prey included rats and mice, the increased usage of rat poison – along with other factors such as habitat loss – has resulted in a collapse in numbers since the 1950s.

The barn owl is now on the red list of endangered native bird species, with the number of breeding pairs thought to be in the region of 1,200 to 1,500.

The plight of this former farmyard bird has been highlighted by the work of the Barn Owl Project, an initiative started three years ago by east Galway conservationist John Carrig.

The Barn Owl Project rescues and rehabilitates injured birds. In addition, it organises the placing of nest boxes and runs an information campaign on the impact of rodenticide usage on wildlife.

The project is now seeking to enlist the help of young people through a series of talks in schools, while also giving presentations to farming groups, tidy towns committees and men’s sheds.

To finance this campaign, the project has launched a go-fund-me page, which can be accessed at www.thebarnowlproject.ie.