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01 August, 2017

Major project to protect Orkney’s internationally important wildlife wins Heritage Lottery Fund support

Major project to protect Orkney’s internationally important wildlife wins Heritage Lottery Fund support: logo-4

An ambitious project to save Orkney’s native wildlife has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) it was announced today.

The Orkney Native Wildlife Project is a partnership between Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and RSPB Scotland and is set to be the largest project of its kind in the world.

It will safeguard the unique and internationally important native wildlife of Orkney now and into the future by addressing the threat it faces from an invasive non-native predator: the stoat.

Development funding of £64,600 has been awarded to help the partnership progress plans for an ambitious stoat eradication project before applying for a full grant of more than £3 million in 2018.

Orkney is an important home for wildlife. Despite the combined land area of Orkney’s 70 islands accounting for less than 1% of the UK, the islands are home to more than a fifth of the UK’s breeding hen harriers, internationally important numbers of seabirds and one of the few places in the UK in which waders such as curlews are still a common breeding species.

Like many islands, Orkney is free of predatory mammals. Stoats are native to the UK mainland but not Orkney where they were first seen in 2010. They feed on small birds, eggs and small mammals and therefore pose a threat to poultry, the Orkney vole and many birds which are part of Orkney’s thriving wildlife tourism industry. During the nine-month development phase the partnership will consult widely with the local community and stakeholders and develop activities that will ensure Orcadians can be involved in helping native wildlife thrive.

Lucy Casot, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “This is an extremely important project for the Orkney Islands. Wildlife tourism plays a vital part in the economy of this remote area. With the help of funds raised through the National Lottery, the fragile ecological balance can be restored for the benefit of the rare wildlife that lives there and for the islands as a whole.”

Nick Halfhide, SNH’s director of operations, said: “Orkney is spectacularly important for wildlife, and wildlife tourism is key to the local economy. Stoats are a major threat to the island’s natural and cultural heritage and this project brings a partnership approach to supporting and securing the future of Orkney’s important native wildlife.”

Martin Harper is director of global conservation for the RSPB. He said: “Invasive non-native species are one of the greatest threats to wildlife around the world and are implicated in the majority of bird extinctions to date. We know that successful eradications can secure the future of island populations and we are delighted to have secured funding to help the partnership safeguard the future of the Orkney vole and so many internationally important populations of birds in Orkney.”

Despite attempts to remove them since 2010, stoats have spread across the Orkney mainland and the connected isles. Now only the non-linked islands remain stoat-free.

Contact information

SNH Media

Notes to editors

First-round pass

Heritage Grants applications are assessed in two rounds.  A first-round pass is given when HLF has endorsed outline proposals and earmarked funding. A first-round pass may also include an immediate award to fund the development of the project. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second-round and as long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed.

About RSPB Scotland

RSPB Scotland is part of the RSPB, the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

About the project


The technical aspects of the stoat eradication will be optimised by consulting with experts in the field and through trialling different humane methods of trapping stoats in preparation for the delivery phase of the project. A project development officer will be appointed to support the partnership with this work. The partnership will also determine how to protect the islands from re-invasion. Following community and stakeholder consultations, detailed operational plans will be developed for the eradication and to ensure Orkney’s native wildlife is effectively safeguarded for the future.


About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage.  


For further information and interviews contact:

Fergus Macneill, SNH Public Relations: 01463 725021

Kirsty Nutt, RSPB Scotland Communications Manager, 01224 627869 or 07711 385595 or


Scottish Natural Heritage is the government's adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help people understand, value and enjoy Scotland's nature now and in the future. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

Tha Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba na buidheann comhairleachaidh dhan riaghaltas a thaobh nàdair agus seallaidhean-tìre air feadh Alba. ’S e an dleastanas a th’ againn cuideachadh a thoirt do dhaoine gus tuigse, luach agus tlachd fhaighinn bho nàdar na h-Alba, an-dràsta agus san àm ri teachd. Airson tuilleadh fiosrachaidh, tadhail air  no lean sinn air Twitter aig




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