In a project costing £1.3 million, a partnership of conservation organisations have successfully translocated three golden eagles chicks in Scotland.
Under licence from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the chicks were collected from nests in the Scottish Highlands (single chicks were taken from broods of two young), transported to southern Scotland and cared for in specially designed release aviaries.
“Golden eagles are one of Scotland’s most impressive species and many people – myself included – will be excited by the increased opportunity to see these magnificent animals in the wild,” says Scotland’s environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham.
“In bolstering golden eagle numbers in the south of Scotland, the project will add to the biodiversity of the area, as well as potentially attracting more visitors – with the accompanying economic benefits that brings.”
Following their release, the project is calling on local people and visitors to the area to record sightings of the birds.
To celebrate Scotland’s Year of Young People, the eagles have been adopted by local schools, who have named them Edward, Beaky and Emily.
All three released golden eagles, and any future ones, have been satellite tagged so that the project can monitor the behaviour, survival and health of the birds.
Over the next four years, the project is aiming to translocate between three and ten eagle chicks.
However some conservationists are concerned about the future of the translocated eagles.
In an online post, Raptor Persecution UK say, “The south of Scotland is well-known for the illegal persecution of raptors, including golden eagles. Only this year, a young satellite-tagged golden eagle (Fred) ‘disappeared’ in the Pentland Hills in highly suspicious circumstances.”
While they agree that the local golden eagle population needs help, they believe that “fundamental to translocation and reintroduction projects is the need to identify and resolve the underlying cause(s) of the species’ decline in that area.”
The directors of the South Scotland Golden Eagle Project say that they have support for the eagle translocation from those in the area.
“We continue to make strenuous efforts to ensure the full support of the land management and local communities for the project, and we are heartened by the support to date.”
“Members of the partnership work closely with Police Scotland, and the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAWS) to stamp out wildlife crime in Scotland.”