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TV’s Simon praises south west wildlife record

By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale
TV’s Simon praises south west wildlife record

WILDLIFE rich Dumfries and Galloway and the magnificent Solway coastline were ‘a gem’ not fully appreciated outwith the region’s boundaries.

That was the conclusion of writer, broadcaster, naturalist and award-winning cameraman Simon King, pictured, during a recent visit to Dumfries for the first ever Wild Film Festival Scotland.

The Kenyan-born conservationist, presenter of several top-rated natural history programmes including Big Cat Diaries, is no stranger to the region through his work and family connections north of the border.

In an interview with DnG Media, he said: “The illusion from the roadside travelling through the area is that the region is mainly agricultural land but that is far from the case.

“You don’t need to go far off the beaten track to get up in the hills a bit. To the surprise of many visitors, there is a real taste of traditional Scotland in terms of natural history, beautiful wide spaces and magnificent shorelines.

“There are also attractions like WWT Caerlaverock and lesser known reserves which are proper little gems.”

Simon, 54, an OBE and Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, expressed the belief that the film festival could help promote the region’s attractions.

He said: “By focusing on photography and cinematography, the event captures more than one point of view of the natural world.

“This increases a wider awareness through both an interest in photography and the images on show.

“It’s a kind of catch all concept which I hope will continue and develop. It’s another flag of honour for Dumfries and Galloway.”

WARM WELCOME . . . among those involved in the festival events at the Theatre Royal on Friday evening were, left to right: Caroline Smith, Simon King, Mhairi Valentine, Sid Ambrose and Fran Raw

Despite a greater general interest in wildlife and the environment, Simon warned that there was still a serious crisis facing the natural world in the UK and beyond.

He said: “While I’d love to say conservation is in the ascendancy that is far from the case. Over the last 50 years we have seen a catastrophic decline in British wildlife.

“Of the 8000 species studied 60 per cent are in decline. There are 15 per cent threatened with extinction — and some are already extinct.”

Simon warned that there were many examples of creatures being pushed to the brink through human activity, highlighting intensive agricultural practices and climate change as main causes.

However, returning his focus to south west Scotland, he praised the work going on locally to make the natural world sustainable.

He described some of the ‘fantastic success stories’ such as the Golden Eagle hovering on a comeback and the re-establishment of a Red Kite population.

Simon added that there was a growth in ‘enlightened attitudes’ to the natural world but cautioned there was still a tiny minority, who persecuted animals and were threatening progress.



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