Bird experts worry that 'Star Wars' shoot is interrupting breeding

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Image Credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images

Denizens of the Star Wars galaxy aren’t the best stewards of their environment. The empire once blew up an entire planet (sorry, Alderaan); there’s fan speculation about the fate of the Ewok ecosystem after the second Death Star explodes during Return of the Jedi. (Spoiler: It doesn’t look good.) And let’s not even consider the emissions impact of pod racing.

But as J.J. Abrams and crew prepare to shoot episode VII, it looks like the damage might come closer to home. The Guardian reports that Irish wildlife conservationists have raised concerns about plans to shoot the Star Wars sequel on the remote island of Skellig Michael, citing the possibility that filming will interrupt the breeding patterns of local puffins, peregrine falcons, and guillemots.

Dr Steve Newton of BirdWatch Ireland told Radio Kerry that, although the remote island—and UNESCO World Heritage Site—is only open to the public between May and September, he  “would have preferred the filming to take place in September than in July, when we have a lot of breeding birds still.”

Shooting began on Monday morning. James Hickey, the chief executive of the Irish Film Board, said the shoot had been “designed specifically to avoid disturbance of breeding birds,” and that the timing was approved by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The island is known both for its wildlife and its ruins, which date back to a sixth century Christian monastery. It’s a popular tourist site, and local boatmen have been paid €1,000 in compensation for a projected loss of earnings during filming.

Little is known about the relationship between the puffin and the Jedi, but let’s hope they can learn to live in peace.


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