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MSP gets to grips with eagle project

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By Christie Breen
MSP gets to grips with eagle project

EAGLE experts are confident that the eaglets in the Moffat Hills will be released successfully into the wild.

A once sizeable golden eagle population in southern Scotland dwindled over 200 years until just three breeding pairs remained when the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project (SSGEP) was launched five years ago.

But, thanks to the team’s efforts, it is now believed to have risen beyond the last official estimate of 33.

In previous years aviaries constructed in other isolated areas in the south housed translocated eaglets, from healthy populations in the Highlands, which were transferred through special licence, before later being successfully settled in suitable habitats.

The site, monitored round the clock for security reasons, is situated in a hard-to-reach area, ideally suited for eaglets to settle and eventually breed, hopefully establishing a population which will thrive for generations to come.

SSGEP manager Dr Cat Barlow and her team of experts continue to monitor the eagle population post-release in all the other areas of southern Scotland which have so far been part of the programme. She said: “We only feed the eaglets in their first year until they become established in an area but we continue to watch their progress and work closely with the local landowners and managers who have been very supportive.”

Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell recently visited the remote site during which he helped feed the eaglets and viewed them at close quarters. He praised the project team and their funders on preventing the extinction, against the odds, of the golden eagle in southern Scotland and restoring an important link in the region’s biodiversity.

Meanwhile, the countdown is on to the Moffat Golden Eagle Festival, which takes place between September 16-18. The event is in its second year and Mr Mundell urged the public to go along.

He said: “There is a wide-spread public fascination with golden eagles and their presence in the region is not only good for wildlife conservation but also for local tourism.

“The festival, designed to appeal to all ages, shines a spotlight on the project’s work and progress whilst helping secure vital support for the charity and providing another visitor attraction for Moffat.”

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