Well, of all the headlines you could possibly imagine Star Wars: Episode VII might earn ahead of its release, I bet the above is not one you would have come up with. Nonetheless, hot on the tail of news that the next Star Wars installment will be shooting on location on Ireland's lush and lovely island Skellig Michael, comes outrage from conservationists concerned about how filming might impact the local wildlife.
The Guardian reports Disney's Star Wars: Episode VII has run afoul of wildlife conservationists who worry the big productions occupation of Skellig Michael island will disturb the breeding season of its native birds. Their fear is that the coming year could see a troublesome drop in the population of puffins, manx shearwaters, storm petrels, peregrine falcons and guillemots who typically use the remote island for their mating season, which is going on right now.
Here are some puffins in action
While previous reports said Star Wars: Episode VII wouldn't be shooting on World Heritage site of Skellig Michael until the end of August, The Guardian declares that location shooting has already started on the island. And that's exactly the problem for environmentalists, like Dr. Steve Newton of BirdWatch Ireland, who noted that a period closer to September would have allowed the birds proper time and privacy to breed in their accustomed fashion.
"It would have been preferable if filming took place out of the breeding season, in September, when I believe it was originally scheduled," Dr. Newton told Radio Kerry. "But it is very hard. Skellig is only open to the public really between May and sometime in September. But I would have preferred the filming to take place in September than in July, when we have a lot of breeding birds still."
It's unclear how much of the cast and crew is on the island, or how this compares to its typical tourist traffic. However, chief executive of the Irish Film Board James Hickey says conservationist concerns are overblown. For one thing, the shoot is only three-days long, lasting from Monday July 28th to Wednesday July 30th. Beyond that, the July shoot dates earned the approval of the National Parks and Wildlife Service because the shooting schedule was "designed specifically to avoid disturbance of breeding birds."
To further smooth things over for locals of Kerry County who might feel irked at the production of Star Wars: Episode VII shutting down Skellig Michael during their time there, boatmen from nearby Portmagee were hired to help commute crew and equipment, and paid €1,000 each to help cover the potentially lost income from ferrying tourists for these three shoot days.
Star Wars: Episode VII will open December 18th, 2015.