Thanks to support from funders including Cairngorms, Highland, Moray, Rural
Aberdeenshire and Rural Tayside LEADER Programmes 2007 and Scottish Natural
Heritage (SNH) through the Species Action Framework, over £920,000 has now been
raised to get the partnership initiative between Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of
Scotland (RAFTS), Scottish Wildlife Trust, the University of Aberdeen, SNH and
more than 16 other organisations, off the ground.
Led by a project coordinator, the project will build on previous projects — such as the success of work in the Cairngorms led by the University of
Aberdeen’s Professor Xavier Lambin* who is also invoved in this new
project - and is set to appoint four regionally-based community
officers covering the Highlands, rural Aberdeenshire, rural Tayside, and Moray
and the Cairngorms.
Chris Horrill, Project Development Manager for Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of
Scotland (RAFTS), said: “There are sound conservation and socio-economic
aims behind our initiative. This work must be carried out if we are to
protect Scotland’s native wildlife and the communities and economies which rely
on a thriving natural environment.
“Invasive non-native species, like the American mink, damage our environment
and the economy. In north Scotland, an area which relies heavily on
sustainable angling and shooting industries as well as wildlife tourism, we
can’t afford to take the risk of losing parts of our biodiversity.
Rob Raynor, SNH’s species adviser and member of the project said: "This
exciting project is the first stage of a strategic approach to managing the
spread of mink in mainland Scotland and SNH is happy to be providing substantial
“By building on previous successes in the Cairngorms and north east Scotland,
the project will establish a strategic monitoring and control zone across
the north, extending from the mid-Tay to the South Esk, around the east coast to
the River Nairn, and across from Dornoch and Cromarty on the east to Ullapool on
the west. As we gradually establish areas free from mink, we hope to
eventually expand the zone southwards in future.
“The strategy relies on the involvement of volunteers and the local rivers
& fisheries trusts, with their network of ghillies, water bailiffs and
gamekeepers, who we believe are central to making this initiative a
Paul Gallagher, Habitats and Species Officer for the Scottish Wildlife Trust,
added: “This project will monitor the movements of the mink population
using mink rafts to identify their footprints and hopes to maintain mink-free
zones by strategically undertaking the minimum amount of control necessary and
prevent further spread of American mink across the Highlands. Establishing
an alert system, made up of local land owners and volunteers, to ensure we can
respond to animal movements in our target areas is essential to our
success. Animal welfare considerations will be paramount to our
“The American mink is a non-native predator which, through its hunting of
water voles, salmon, and bird eggs and chicks, contributes to the loss of
Scotland’s biodiversity. The decline or loss of these species could also
impact negatively on local economies which depend on angling, shooting, or
“This initiative is as much about economic concerns as it is about ecological
responsibility. We are working to protect people’s livelihoods as well as
our native wildlife.”
*The new project announced today by the Scottish Wildlife Trust
builds and expands upon work involving University of Aberdeen biologists.
Professor Xavier Lambin led a major community drive to remove the mink from a
vast area centred on the Cairngorms National Park and extending from the
headwaters to the mouth of several river catchments
Following a three year endeavour - involving the help of 186 volunteers
and many other stakeholders — all breeding mink have been removed from a
10,570km² area. This is the largest effort ever undertaken in the world to
successfully remove an invasive species from the mainland.
The project build on a sounds understanding of the biology of mink
including their ability to disperse over large distance, as well as on an
understanding of predator prey relationship developed by ecologists.
Signs are already in evidence of a return of the water vole, one of
several species living along waterways and badly affected by this invasive
species that spread throughout Britain since they escaped from fur farms from
The Cairngorm project brought together scientists, policymakers and a
range of stakeholders including the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Scottish
Natural Heritage, local fisheries trusts, gamekeepers and local residents. Its
main focus has been on eradicating American mink and conserving existing
endangered water voles.
Specially designed ‘mink rafts’ were used to establish whether mink were
in the area — the rafts featured a clay plate that displayed the footprints of
any mink that had used it and were placed under a wooden tunnel. Volunteers
adopted a raft to help protect their neighbourhood from the impact of mink.
Traps were then set for mink found to be in the area.
Professor Lambin, Professor of Ecology, said: “We applied and refined
ecological understanding of mink populations to optimise the conservation
benefit derived from the efforts of a large coalition of volunteers keen to
protect biodiversity in their local area.
“This kind of partnership has the potential to deliver sustainable
conservation on an unprecedented scale, well beyond what government bodies alone
“The main factor underpinning the success of this project was the
involvement of volunteers.
“The project is a reason for optimism that the tide of non-native
invasion can be rolled back on a large scale where the convergent interest of
local communities can be harnessed.
“Much remains to be done but there is a huge amount of goodwill we can
Notes to Editors
The strategic control of North American Mink in Northern Scotland is a
partnership initiative between Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland (RAFTS),
Scottish Wildlife Trust, the University of Aberdeen, Scottish Natural Heritage,
and more than 16 other organisations. The three-year initiative aims to
protect nationally significant populations of water voles, salmonids, ground
nesting birds, and other riparian biodiversity by establishing a sustainable
management framework to create and maintain an area free of breeding mink in
The project is funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, Tubney Charitable Trust,
Cairngorms National Park and the Scottish Government and the European Community
Cairngorms, Highland, Moray, Rural Aberdeenshire and Rural Tayside Local Action
Groups LEADER 2007-2013 Programme.
The Species Action Framework, launched in 2007 by Ministers, sets out a
strategic approach to species management in Scotland. In addition, 32 species
have been identified as the focus of new management action for five years from
2007. SNH works with a range of partners in developing this work and
further information can be found at www.snh.gov.uk/speciesactionframework
The Scottish Wildlife Trust is the largest voluntary
body working for all the wildlife of Scotland, representing more than 36,000 members who care for wildlife and
the environment. The Scottish Wildlife Trust seeks to raise public awareness of threatened habitats and species and
manages over 120 reserves Scotland-wide.
The Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland
(RAFTS) is a leading independent freshwater conservation charity
representing Scotland's national network of 25 rivers and fisheries Trusts
and Foundations. RAFTS core objective is the conservation and enhancement of
native freshwater fish and their environment in Scotland.
The University of Aberdeen has been at the forefront of teaching, learning
and discovery for 500 years. Our research addresses many of today's global
challenges and brings together world leading scientists from different
disciplines to tackle issues such as environmental sustainability.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is theScottish Government’s statutory advisor
on the conservation, enhancement, enjoyment, understanding and sustainable use
of the natural heritage. For further information on SNH, please visit http://www.snh.gov.uk/. SNH is a funding
partner of the project.
The project team is in the process of recruiting staff. Further details
about these vacancies can be found at
Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External Affairs,
University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen. Tel: (01224)
Issued on: 01 February 2011