Castlewellan blogger Dara wins gong for wildlife work

Castlewellan blogger Dara wins gong for wildlife work

6 November 2019

WHEN you’re honoured in the same company as Sir David Attenborough, then you know that you’re done exceptionally well.

Castlewellan naturalist, activist and writer Dara McAnulty is the latest recipient of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds Medal in recognition of his contributions to conservation.

The 15 year-old student from Shimna Integrated College received the award from Kevin Cox, chair of the RSPB Council, at the charity’s AGM event in London last weekend.

Dara has long been a passionate campaigner for wildlife and nature and vowed that he will “never stop working for nature” at the event.

He added he was “incredibly honoured and deeply humbled to be the youngest ever recipient of the RSPB Medal” — an award previously given to high-profile recipients, including Sir David Attenborough.

“When I was told I’d won the RSPB Medal, I thought it was a joke, I couldn’t believe that I deserved it,” said Dara.

“I was given a list of previous winners and made the mistake of 

looking at it. I have actually had the privilege of meeting three RSPB Medal holders — Prof Sir John Lawton, who’s an incredible scientist and brave individual, MP Caroline Lucas and the Prince of Wales.”

Dara was involved the Youth Climate Strikes in September, which saw countless thousands take to the streets of cites across the UK — including an estimated 4,000 in Belfast — to demand action on climate breakdown. 

He has also worked with TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham and was also one of a dozen young people who fronted the launch of the State of Nature report. 

Each of them was quoted in the report with Dara stating that “nature is our life support system”.

Dara lives with Asperger’s Syndrome and said he believed his connection with nature and wildlife has helped him to live with it.

He has inspired and engaged thousands of children and adults to speak up to campaign on issues including climate breakdown and the persecution of birds of prey. 

Dara is soon to publish a book called Diary of a Young Naturalist based on his popular blog.

He added: “I wouldn’t be getting this award without the immense support and encouragement I have received from my family, my community and the wildlife organisations I have volunteered for over the last few years. 

“Getting this award will, I hope, inspire and encourage other young people to be the change they wish to see in the world. 

“There is still so much to do, though, so many obstacles in our way — but we must all rise to the job which is so essential to all life — to protect nature, our life support system, immediately.”

Claire Barnett, RSPB NI Area Manager (East), said: “Every year we recognise those individuals who inspire us all to celebrate, discover and be amazed by our natural world.

“Dara has embodied all of that as he brings more of us closer to the wonderful species found in Northern Ireland. 

“Dara is playing an important role in helping more people to understand not just what is on their doorstep but the threats faced by our natural world.

“We are immensely proud to have made Dara the youngest ever recipient of the RSPB’s Medal for Services to Conservation as he continues to inspire us all.”