Star Wars Filming 'Hijacks' Rare Bird Island
The makers of the latest instalment of the Star Wars franchise have been criticised for filming on a rocky outcrop off the coast of Ireland which is home to thousands of rare birds
Director JJ Abrams and Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill are among the cast and crew who have joined filming on Skellig Michael, off the coast of County Kerry, for Episode VII.
But conservationists have said the filmmakers should not be there during breeding season for the puffins, manx shearwaters, storm petrels and other species that call the island - which rises 700m out of the Atlantic Ocean - their home.
"This is totally inappropriate in terms of the timing," said Stephen Newton of Birdwatch Ireland.
"The birds could desert the island if they get too stressed out by the amount of noise and vibration."
Mr Newton - who declined a request from the producers to help an impact assessment - said the island had been "hijacked" for the shoot and complained he could not reach Skellig Michael to check the important colony because of a massive security operation led by the Irish navy.
A two-mile exclusion zone has been set up in the waters around the island, which is being patrolled by the naval vessel LE Samuel Beckett.
Skellig Michael, which housed a monastic complex in the 7th century, is a Unesco World Heritage Site and the UN agency has also been in contact with the Irish government, which gave the go-ahead for filming.
Roni Amelan, of Unesco headquarters in Paris, said: "We can't speculate what the filming of Star Wars on the site will do to the wildlife.
"We just know that this is going on and we have asked for information."
The Irish Film Board said Star Wars was allowed to film after extensive scientific analysis by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
"The filming programme has been designed specifically to avoid the disturbance of breeding birds on the island," a spokeswoman said.
She added that experts were on the island had the authority to intervene if they suspected their could be any adverse effects on the wildlife or the habitat.