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Tourists rescued from rhododendron forest in Killarney

Rhododendron plants in full bloom
Image caption Some rhododendron plants can grow taller than 25ft (8m) if they are not controlled

Air, mountain and water rescue teams were called to rescue two tourists who were lost for hours in a rhododendron forest in an Irish national park.

They were camping in Killarney National Park in County Kerry on Thursday when they became "disorientated".

A helicopter guided them through the dense rhododendrons to a lake shore, where they were rescued by boat.

It is not the first time rescuers have been sent to the forest, which covers about a third of the 26,000 acres park.

'Destructive'

Earlier this year, a Kerry politician called for military action to stop the "aggressive" rhododendrons from "taking over" the beauty spot.

"The rhododendron situation in Killarney National Park has become so bad that nothing short of calling in the army is going to put it right," Michael Healy-Rae warned the Dáil (Irish parliament) in February.

The park runs a control programme for the plant and says that "hundreds of thousands of euros are spent each year in the battle to eradicate the highly invasive and destructive rhododendron ponticum".

Image copyright ©Pam Brophy/CC Geograph
Image caption Killarney National Park is trying to control wild rhododendrons from spreading

'Jungle-like'

Rhododendron ponticum is a non-native shrub that can grow taller than 25ft (8m) if it is not controlled.

Irish broadcaster, RTÉ, said the rhododendron plants have become "jungle-like" in parts of the park.

Its thick foliage not only presents problems for neighbouring plants and trees - it makes life difficult for rescue teams.

The tourists who could not find their way out of the forest on Thursday called Kerry Mountain Rescue at about 13:00 local time.

Mountain rescuers in turn requested assistance from a coast guard helicopter, because of the difficulty in finding the pair in the rhododendrons.

Image copyright South Eastern Mountain Rescue Association
Image caption In 2014, two walkers were rescued by boat from rhododendrons in the Knockmealdowns Mountains

A spokesman for the Irish Coast Guard in Valentia said the tourists' orange tent was spotted from the air, but the aircraft could not reach them in the dense terrain.

Instead, it guided them to the shore of nearby Lough Leane.

The pair were taken on board a Kerry Water Rescue vessel at about 15:40 local time, more than two and a half hours after they first called for help.

A similar method was also used in 2014 to help two walkers who became trapped in a 'treacherous' rhododendron forest between County Waterford and County Tipperary.

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