10,000 people take golden eagles under their wings in support of groundbreaking conservation project

19 December 2019

The partners behind a ground-breaking UK conservation initiative have today revealed that record numbers of people from across the country, and beyond, have participated in a project to help protect and grow the golden eagle population in the south of Scotland.

The pioneering South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project has been set up to address concerns about low numbers of golden eagles, which play a vital role in helping to maintain a healthy local ecosystem, in the south of Scotland. Over 10,000 volunteers and special project participants of all ages (aged 4 to 92) have taken the golden eagles under their wings, as they’ve supported the project through a wide range of tasks and initiatives.

Those who have participated in the initiative to date come from a range of backgrounds and organisations, including: the UK’s first ever Golden Eagle Scout Champions at the Scottish Borders Scouts; over 360 pupils from primary schools across the south of Scotland and one in the Scottish Highlands; Borders College; the Scottish Raptor Study Group; Kielder Bird of Prey Centre; HMP Dumfries; and local businesses like Wild Tree Adventures. Earlier this year, the Philiphaugh Estate near Selkirk also announced that it plans to open a Golden Eagle Centre which will support the project’s conservation and community engagement work.

The project team has successfully translocated four golden eagles from the Scottish Highlands to the south of Scotland. The four birds have settled into their new habitats and are now fending for themselves. Support from volunteers and participants plays a pivotal role in helping the iconic species continue to grow and thrive in the area.

Project partners include RSPB Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, Scottish Forestry, NatureScot, and the Southern Uplands Partnership. Funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, project partners, Scottish Power Renewables, the Scottish Government and local LEADER Programmes. The initiative is a key project under the Scottish Government’s 2020 Challenge for Scottish Biodiversity (which sets out a route map to protect and restore Scotland’s biodiversity).

Speaking about their support, Philip Munro, Community Outreach Officer for the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project said: “It is fantastic to see so many people are so passionate about protecting this iconic species in the south of Scotland. We are absolutely delighted with the support, which plays an absolutely vital role in protecting golden eagles. We need to keep building on this so that we can ensure that we can see even more of these magnificent birds across the south of Scotland’s skies for generations to come.”

Francesca Osowska, NatureScot’s Chief Executive, said: “This is a fantastic milestone. Golden eagles are such an amazing part of Scotland’s biodiversity, and an integral part of building a nature-rich country for us all. We’re passionate about returning golden eagles to places where they used to be plentiful – and it looks like we have thousands of people on our side!  A huge thank you to all the wonderful volunteers and project participants.”

One volunteer has recently been shortlisted as Student of the Year by the Scottish Rural College (SRUC), largely for her work on the project. Charlotte Martin, a Countryside Management student at SRUC, first heard about the Project when Philip Munro delivered a talk at the college. She said: “Having previously worked in areas where golden eagles were part of the fabric of the area and very much accepted and admired alongside my career in farming with employers who farmed commercially yet with great respect for wildlife, I was very excited by the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project’s aims. I badgered the project team to let me volunteer and have since been helping at public engagement events, which I thoroughly enjoy.”

“I am looking forward to continuing with the project, completing my studies and hopefully entering the Ecology sector or working with birds of prey or invertebrate research, and of course helping others have more of a chance of spotting a majestic golden eagle in the southern skies!”

Speaking about the project’s work with the Scottish Borders Scouts, Steve Backshall, BAFTA-winning naturalist, writer and television presenter, and Scouts Ambassador said: “This is an amazing opportunity for Scouts in the Scottish Borders to be a part of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project. They will be playing a vital role in the continued protection of many unique and important species, such as Scotland’s golden eagles.”

Speaking of their involvement Principal Teacher for Yarrow & Kirkhope Primary Schools, Mrs Hoppé said: “We were really excited to be one of the first schools to take part in the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project’s Eagle Schools initiative. It really brought our community together and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone. The children have had the most amazing experience. We are incredibly proud of the interest our pupils have shown in protecting this majestic and important bird. We look forward to supporting the project to make sure that Golden Eagles flourish in the south of Scotland.”

For the latest news on the project visit: www.goldeneaglessouthofscotland.co.uk