The Orkney Native Wildlife Project is appealing for landowners and homeowners in Mainland Orkney, Burray, Hunda, South Ronaldsay, Lambs Holm and Glimps Holm to get in touch so that attempts to ensure Orkney’s internationally important native wildlife is protected from an invasive non-native predator – the stoat – can forge ahead.
In October, the ambitious five-year project announced that it had been successful in securing funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and EU LIFE, which along with confirmed contributions from the partners meant that the £7.3 million project could begin in earnest.
The project will set out nearly 7035 trap boxes across Mainland Orkney and the connected isles along with a network of ‘biosecurity traps’ on other islands to prevent stoats spreading. The project plans to complete trap roll out by next summer, so it is imperative that the project finishes gathering access permissions from landowners and homeowners as soon as possible.
Speaking on behalf of the Orkney Native Wildlife Project, Bea Ayling said: “We are appealing for land and homeowners to get in touch as soon as possible by emailing ONWP.LandAccess@gmail.com. At this time, we are looking to simply secure initial access permissions. Then, once the project team is in place next year, we will be in touch to discuss and agree bespoke access arrangements that are specific to each land holding. With help from the NFUS (National Farmers Union, Scotland), Scottish Agricultural College and SGIRPID (Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate), we have developed a Land Access Protocol which guides how access will be taken on land with minimal disturbance to landowners and their activities. This will be reviewed annually to check whether any updates or changes are required.”
Bea continued: “Orkney is incredibly important for wildlife and to safeguard Orkney’s native wildlife we need to remove stoats. We’ve been really moved by the support for protecting Orkney’s wildlife that we have experienced so far. I would encourage anyone with questions to also get in touch with us at ONWP.LandAccess@gmail.com.”
Stoats are native to the UK Mainland but not to Orkney, where they were first recorded in 2010. Since then, the stoat population has increased and is now established and widely-distributed throughout Mainland Orkney and the connected isles including Burray and South Ronaldsay.
Stoats pose a very serious threat to Orkney's native wildlife particularly the Orkney vole, hen harrier, short-eared owl and other ground nesting birds for which the islands are internationally important and upon which Orkney’s thriving wildlife tourism industry relies.
The Orkney Native Wildlife Project, a partnership between RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and Orkney Islands Council, aims to safeguard the unique and internationally important native wildlife of Orkney now and into the future by removing stoats from Orkney.
Along with eradicating stoats which will involve recruiting a team of specially-skilled trappers and training the UK’s first team of stoat detection dogs, the project team will raise awareness about Orkney’s native wildlife and the threats invasive non-native species pose and work alongside local communities, local schools, tourism groups, farmers and land managers.
Throughout the project and beyond, there will be many ways that Orcadians (including school children) can get involved in helping native wildlife thrive. This includes hosting traps, helping to detect and remove stoats, collecting data to monitor how native wildlife is doing, protecting stoat-free islands from invasion and ensuring measures are in place to prevent re-invasions in the future. All these ways to become involved and more were chosen and developed through consultations that took place with stakeholders and local communities.
Landowners and homeowners can get in touch with the Orkney Native Wildlife Project to discuss access by emailing ONWP.LandAccess@gmail.com. All general enquiries should still be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
News and updates are also available on the Orkney Native Wildlife Project Facebook page at www.facebook.com/OrkneyNativeWildlifeProject.