BBC Northern Ireland’s popular weathercaster and wildlife presenter Barra Best visited Ballinderry Rivers Trust's Conservation Breeding Centre and River School, located just outside Cookstown, in August last year to film a segment for his new series called Bara's Return of the Wild on BBC 1.
The episode, scheduled to air on Wednesday 19th July at 8pm on BBC One Northern Ireland, highlights the freshwater pearl mussel project and the Trust's efforts to protect the river ecosystem, especially highlighting work being done in collaboration with local landowners.
During his visit to film, Barra documented the work being done at the conservation breeding centre and on the river itself. The footage showcases Ballinderry Rivers Trust's dedication to preserving the freshwater pearl mussel population, ensuring their longevity and successful reproduction in the river.
The freshwater pearl mussel project, which has been ongoing since 1998, is Europe's longest-running conservation breeding programme for this globally endangered species. As part of the breeding programme, over 3000 freshwater pearl mussels have been released into the Ballinderry River, effectively doubling the remaining wild population. This initiative has extended the extinction date of the Ballinderry population by at least 100 years. In addition to the breeding programme, the Trust works closely with landowners to promote water-friendly farming practices and implements projects to reduce soil and nutrient loss, thus alleviating pressures on the water environment. The Trust also engages with the wider community to raise awareness of the species' plight and encourages everyone to contribute to its protection.
During his trip to the River School, Barra expressed his admiration for the work being done at the breeding centre and commended the ongoing efforts, by both the Trust and local landowners, to protect this globally endangered species.
The filmed material has already been featured in a programme aired in the EU and was also included in RTÉ's wildlife series broadcast last month. He interviewed Ballinderry Rivers Trust Conservation Breeding Programmes Manager Frank Mitchell, who guided the presenter's hands-on experience in both the breeding centre and out on the river. Agriculture and Land Manager Rachael McEldowney and Agricultural Advisor Eoin Devlin also feature in the upcoming program.
This is not the first time Ballinderry Rivers Trust and its projects have garnered attention. They have previously been featured on popular shows such as Countryfile with John Craven, Lesser Spotted Ulster with Joe Mahon, and Home Ground with Gavin Andrews on BBC NI.
Ballinderry Rivers Trust welcomes group and school visits to learn more about the project and experience the breeding centre and river school first-hand. To book a visit or obtain further information, please contact Jillian Johnston, Education & Outreach Officer, at [email protected].
Don't miss Episode 1 of Barra's Return of the Wild, which will be broadcasted on BBC One Northern Ireland on Wednesday, 19 July at 8pm. The episode will also be available on BBC iPlayer for viewers throughout the UK after transmission.