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Theresa May urged to honour climate and wildlife commitments

Leading environmental campaigners have warned the government against scaling back on commitments to tackle climate change and end the illegal market in wildlife in order to secure post-Brexit trade deals.

Greenpeace, WWF, Friends of the Earth and high-profile figures including Andy Murray and Will Young are among those who have signed a joint letter to the prime minister urging Theresa May not to engage in an “environmental race to the bottom” after withdrawal from the EU.

The campaigners said they feared international green commitments could be watered down in return for lucrative bilateral trade agreements. The letter said: “We are alarmed by recent media reports suggesting that the UK’s commitments to tackling climate change and ending the illegal wildlife trade could be watered down to secure post-Brexit trade deals.

“To be a great, global trading nation, the UK must deliver on its promises for the environment and the climate and honour our international commitments. In doing so we will help build a greener, better and more prosperous future for everyone, rather than driving an environmental race to the bottom.”

The WWF chief executive officer, Tanya Steele, said: “An African elephant is killed every 25 minutes by ivory poachers, and we are already seeing the serious impacts of climate change, with more severe weather events in the UK.

“Our environment must not be sacrificed during the Brexit negotiations. The UK government must deliver on its promises and leave the environment in a better state for future generations rather than trading away protections for our nature and climate.”

A government spokesperson said: “The UK is a global leader in tackling the illegal wildlife trade and a key part of worldwide efforts on climate change, including implementing the commitments made under the Paris agreement. Our commitment to both issues is as strong as ever.

“The government also has a clear ambition to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it while securing the best deal for the country as we leave the EU.”

Article taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/16/theresa-may-urged-to-honour-climate-and-wildlife-commitments

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More than a quarter of UK birds face extinction risk or steep decline

More than a quarter of UK birds, including the puffin, nightingale and curlew, require urgent conservation efforts to ensure their survival, according to a new report on the state of the UK’s birds.

Since the last review in 2009, an additional 15 species of bird have been placed on the “red list”, a category that indicates a species is in danger of extinction or that has experienced significant decline in population or habitat in recent years. The total number of species on the red list is now 67 out of a total of 247.

On top of this, eight species are considered at risk of global extinction: the balearic shearwater, aquatic warbler, common pochard, long-tailed duck, velvet scoter, slavonian grebe, puffin and turtle dove.

“We’ve been putting these reports out since 1999 – I think it is one of the worst we’ve seen,” said David Noble, one of the authors of the State of the UK’s Birds study and principal ecologist for monitoring at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

Noble said a variety of factors led to the classification of an increased number of species in danger, including land use change, such as afforestation and drainage of fields for farmland, and increased numbers of predators, such as foxes. He also pointed to the global impacts of climate change, which affect migratory birds.

The report is produced by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds(RSPB), the BTO and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, in partnership with the UK’s statutory nature conservation bodies. It collates material from other studies and bird surveys to give a thorough report on the status of various avian species.

There is particular concern among conservationists for the curlew, Europe’s largest wader, which has seen a population decline of 64% from 1970 to 2014 in the UK, largely due to habitat loss. The UK supports up to 27% of the global curlew population, and due to its “near threatened” global status, a research plan has been created to help understand the causes of the species’ decline.

Curlew (Numenius arquata) population in the UK has declined 64% from 1970 to 2014, largely due to habitat loss.
Curlew ( Numenius arquata) population in the UK has declined 64% from 1970 to 2014, largely due to habitat loss. Photograph: Thomas Hanahoe/Alamy Stock Photo

“Curlews are instantly recognisable on winter estuaries or summer moors by their striking long, curved beak, long legs and evocative call,” said Dr Daniel Hayhow, conservation scientist at the RSPB. “They are one of our most charismatic birds and also one of our most important.”

There was good news in the report for some species, including the golden eagle, whose numbers have increased 15% since 2003, and for cirl buntings, which now have more than 1,000 breeding pairs, up from 118 in 1989. Another success story is the red kite, once one of the UK’s most threatened species, which is now on the green list – the lowest level of concern – after years of efforts by conservationists.

Noble said the improvement in the red kite and golden eagle population had to do with a slow rebuilding of populations that had been decimated by attacks from people keen to protect their grouse moors and egg collectors taking their eggs.

In the case of the red kite, he said monitoring of nest sites and the reintroduction of the birds into new areas of the UK were reasons for the recovery of the species.

“Now they’ve spread right across the UK from the strongholds they were reduced to in Wales and some parts of Scotland. Now you can see them in East Anglia occasionally,” he said.

In addition to these successes, a number of species, such as the bittern and nightjar, have moved from the red list to the amber list. Species are placed on the amber list if they are considered at threat of European extinction or have seen a moderate decline in population or habitat. An additional 22 species have moved from the amber to the green list.

Article taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/11/more-than-a-quarter-of-uk-birds-face-extinction-risk-or-steep-decline-study

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Fish are sentient animals who form friendships and experience ‘positive emotions’, landmark study suggests

zebrafish.jpg

Fish are sentient animals who form friendships, experience “positive emotions” and have individual personalities.

That, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), is the implication of a landmark new study which found zebrafish are social animals in a similar way to humans and other mammals.

And people who refuse to eat meat on moral grounds but do eat fish – as well as people who keep fish as pets – should bear that in mind, Dr Penny Hawkins, head of the RSPCA’s research animals department, told The Independent.

The researchers discovered that being in a group gives zebrafish a kind of “social buffering” so they are less afraid when confronted by danger.

And this effect was associated with a distinct pattern of brain activation known to be involved in social buffering in mammals, they added.

Because of this similar mechanism, the scientists hope zebrafish can now be used as a model to study social effects on human health with suggestions that isolation can have a significant impact on conditions such as depression.

But Dr Hawkins said the study also added to the growing body of evidence that fish should not be viewed as lesser animals.

“I think if you are going to think it’s okay to eat any animal, then you have to realise what you are doing,” she said.

“You are causing the death of an animal who is sentient, who has experiences, interests.”

She said the RSPCA did not advocate vegetarianism but operated a “welfare friendly” labelling scheme for meat and fish.

“If you do choose to eat meat and fish do just be aware of what you are buying into and make sure you go for higher welfare labels and not just the cheapest,” she said.

Asked if she thought fish could form friendships, Dr Hawkins said: “It depends how you define friendship. It’s not going to be analogous to human friendship.

“But if you think of friendship in terms of being with another individual who you are familiar with and whose company you seek and who makes you feel positive emotions, then these are fish friendships.

“It would be a good thing if these kinds of results were used, not only to improve the lives of laboratory fish, but also for people who keep fish in fish tanks to think about what they are doing when they mix unfamiliar fish together or when they split groups of fish up.

“They are not just ornaments or play things for people, they are individuals, they are sentient.

“There’s quite a lot of research going on into fish personalities. Some fish are bold, some are shy, there’s a whole lot more going on in the fish tank than people than people thought previously.”

However she also criticised the study, saying the anaesthetic used on the fish before they were killed had been “shown to be very irritating for them”.

“They will work quite hard to get out of it. There are other anaesthetics that don’t have this effect,” Dr Hawkins said.

She said it was a “a bit of a tragic conflict” that the evidence “to make people sit up and think” about fish had come from a study that involved animal suffering.

“The price these individuals paid in order to find this out was pretty high,” Dr Hawkins said.

The zebrafish were kept in a laboratory tank and exposed to their own ‘alarm substance’, a secretion from their skin that signals danger, the researchers said in the journal Scientific Reports.

If they were alone, they displayed signs of greater fear, but when they were with other zebrafish they responded more calmly. They were then killed to allow their brains to be examined.

Professor Rui Oliveira, of the ISPA university in Lisbon, who led the study, said what made it significant was the discovery that zebrafish shared a similar social buffering process in the brain with humans and mammals.

Asked about whether it should change people perceptions of fish, he said: “What this study shows is certainly they change the way they perceive their environment when others are present, which suggests they might be cognitively more complex than we originally thought.

“Maybe because of that people will become more aware of their needs and welfare issues. I think if it helps, it’s great.

“There are all the myths about fish have a memory of five seconds, like in [the film Finding] Nemo, that’s obviously not the case.”

On Dr Hawkins’ complaint about the way the zebrafish were killed, he said the anaesthetic used was part of the official protocol and he was unaware of a better alternative.

His colleague, Dr Ana Faustino, stressed the zebrafish’s social support process “does not have the complexity of the social support verified in humans”.

But she added: “Research in zebrafish will allow us to explore in depth the neural mechanisms involved in this social behaviour, which is paramount to the well-being and mental health of the human species, particularly due to its relevance to certain psychological diseases such as depression.”

Article taken from: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/fish-sentient-animals-friends-positive-emotions-study-study-source-ethics-eating-pescaterians-vegans-a7660756.html

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Bird species vanish from UK due to climate change and habitat loss

Rising temperatures and crop farming mean birds are disappearing from parts of England, says study, while butterflies and dragonflies are faring better

Meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis) have disappeared from sites in south england.
Meadow pipit have disappeared from sites in the south of England. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Climate change has already led to the vanishing of some bird species in parts of England, where intensively farmed land gives them no room to adapt to warming temperatures. The revelation, in a new scientific study, contradicts previous suggestions that birds are tracking global warming by shifting their ranges.

The research found that birds that prefer cooler climes, such as meadow pipits, willow tits and willow warblers, have disappeared from sites in south-east England and East Anglia, where intensive crop growing is common.

“Birds are facing a double-edged sword from climate change and declines in habitat quality,” said Tom Oliver, at the University of Reading, who led the new study. “In England, birds really look like they are struggling to cope with climate change. They are already being hit with long-term reductions in habitat quality and, for the cold-associated birds, those losses are being further exacerbated by climate change.”

“Climate change is with us, here and now, and its effects on wildlife are increasingly well documented,” said Mike Morecroft, principal climate change specialist at Natural England, and part of the research team.

Simon Gillings, at the British Trust for Ornithology, and another member of the research team, said: “Intensive [land] management is making it harder for cold-associated birds to find cool corners of sites, or to disperse away from warming regions.”

But Oliver noted that showing the impact of climate change on wildlife is affected by the availability of good habitats means action can be taken: “We are not completely at the mercy of climate change.” Creating larger natural areas in strategic places will help species cope with a changing climate, the scientists said.

A family of willow warblers at a summer nest site in Scotland.
A family of willow warblers at a summer nest site in Scotland. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The study, published in Global Change Biology, analysed both bird and butterfly data from more than 600 sites monitored between 1964 and 2009. It found butterflies were adapting much better to climate change than birds, although cold-associated butterfly species also suffered if the area around the site was poor in natural habitat.

But while many of the butterfly species that enjoy warmer weather were thriving, birds associated with warmer temperatures were not, due to lost or degraded habitat.

Oliver said butterflies were faring better as they require much smaller areas of natural land, which are more likely to be available. Good habitat means more suitable food plants and more microclimates in which species can thrive in good years and survive in poor ones.

The ringlet butterfly, for example, suffers badly in drought years. But they can hang on if there are patches of broadleaf woodland available, as these resist droughts and keep soils more moist than treeless landscapes.

Butterflies can also produce many generations in a single year when conditions are favourable, whereas birds reproduce more slowly. The small copper butterfly can have up to five generations a year, Oliver said.

The large white-faced darter is one of eleven new dragonfly species to arrive in Britain since 1995. It made its first ever appearance in 2012.
The large white-faced darter is one of eleven new dragonfly species to arrive in Britain since 1995. It made its first appearance in 2012. Photograph: Christophe Brochard/British Dragonfly Society

Like butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies are generally adapting well to climate change and warming has brought 11 new species to Britain since 1995, according to a new report from the British Dragonfly Society. Newcomers include the stunning large white-faced darter and Genevieve Dalley, at the BDS, said: “These unprecedented events currently happening in the dragonfly world are exciting but also act as a warning: the natural world is changing.”

But global warming is also threatening the northern damselfly, restricted to a few small lochs in Scotland, and the black darter, which is becoming less common in the south of Britain.

The scientists conducting the bird and butterfly research determined the temperature favoured by each species by looking at the average warmth of their ranges across Europe, with those preferring heat found mostly in southern Europe and vice versa.

Stopping the destruction of habitat such as hedgerows and old orchards and creating new nature reserves can give opportunities for wildlife to adapt to global warming said Oliver. But biodiversity across England continues to fall, he said, despite a landmark review of wildlife sites for the government in 2010.

A field planted of winter wheat in Suffolk.
Meadow pipits, willow tits and willow warblers have disappeared from sites in East Anglia due to crop farming. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

“That report called for a step change in nature conservation,” said Oliver. “We are still waiting for that step change and until we see it we can’t really expect the fortunes of our wildlife to change.”

Richard Bradbury at the RSPB and not involved in the new research said: “Making use of the tremendously rich wildlife data collected by dedicated UK volunteer observers, this study provides further compelling evidence that climate change is already affecting the UK’s species.”

A major report in 2015 found that one in six of the world’s species faces extinction due to climate change unless action is taken to cut carbon emissions rapidly.

Article taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/11/birds-vanish-england-climate-change-habitat-loss

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Hopes for saving Scottish wildcat rest on captive breeding plan

Conservationists say about 80 creatures in zoos and private collections hold key to re-establishment of the endangered species

A Scottish wildcat in the snow.
The Scottish wildcat is listed as critically endangered. Photograph: National Trust for Scotland/PA 

Fewer than 100 Scottish wildcats are now believed to exist in the wild, say leading experts, with no evidence of any decent sized populations anywhere in the country.

While it had been hoped up to 300 may still survive, recent extensive monitoring suggests a lower figure, with individuals or small groups clinging on in isolated and fragmented pockets.

Hopes for saving the species, often referred to as the “tiger of the Highlands”, now largely rest on captive breeding and rewilding, said conservationists, who are working with experts who successfully brought the Iberian lynx back from the brink in Spain and Portugal.

About 80 captive wildcats in zoos, wildlife parks and private collections around the UK now hold the key to the successful re-establishment of viable populations of the muscular brown and black-striped cat, which resembles a domestic tabby.

Genetic testing of all those captive cats was completed in October. Data is now being fed into a new molecular stud book, similar to that used for the giant panda, which will determine which captive cats are related and which are best matched for breeding.

Once the stud book is operational, in the coming months, it will help establish a quantity of the highest quality genetically diverse cats. Mixed with genes from cats already in the wild, through artificial insemination or through capture of the most vulnerable cats, it will produce a population of wildcats suitable for release into the wild.

It is hoped the first trial releases will happen within five years.

The Scottish wildcat is listed as critically endangered. “Next is extinct in the wild and the next is extinct full stop,” said David Barclay, who manages the conservation breeding programme at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, one of several agencies involved in the Scottish Wildcat Action (SWA) conservation plan, backed by Scottish National Heritage.

The main threat has been hybridisation – breeding with feral or domestic cats. Those in the wild tend to have less gene purity than captive cats not exposed to hybridisation.

“The population of wildcats estimated in the wild is horribly low,” said Barclay. One estimate, within the last five years, put the number between 100-300. “To be honest, I think it is under 100,” said Barclay.

Recent camera trap monitoring of six priority sites, thought to be ideal wildcat habitat, revealed just 19 possible cats out of 200,000 images, said Vicky Burns of the SWA.

Captive cats selected for possible release will be transferred to special conservation breeding enclosures. A prototype is currently being tested at the Highland wildlife park within the Cairngorms national park. Placed at least half a mile from the nearest paths, out of view of the public, these large enclosures will gradually allow the cats to be rewilded.

Pairing wild cats with captive cats will introduce wild behaviour, and the gradual introduction of live prey will trigger instinct and perfect skills, it is hoped. Human contact will be at an absolute minimum, with the cats spending up to two years in the enclosures, and their kittens better equipped for wilderness survival.

The breeding plan is not without its critics, who claim capturing wildcats and introducing them to captive cats will kill off the wild population.

Barclay said there was a lack of understanding about the project, and the facts spoke for themselves.

No wildcats would be captured in the six priority areas for fear of harming any populations there. Instead, semen would be taken from adult males. In less hospitable areas, where an isolated cat might be spotted on private land, it made sense to remove it.

“If there is a wildcat just clinging on, surrounded by feral cats, and at high risk from other issues, we want to bring it into captivity, wrap it up in cotton wool and for it to be beneficial to the captive population and a source for further animals that can be released in future,” he said.

“Without the safety net of the captive population, and the semen samples stored, then the future of wildcats is incredibly bleak. I honestly think these insurance policies are the only ones that are going to save the species.”

Along with the planned releases, SWA is undertaking a vast programme neutering feral cats in the priority areas. This would continue. There is evidence from Europe that once a sizable wildcat population is established – perhaps 40 or 50 cats – feral cats stay away, thus reducing future risk of hybridisation.

Another measure is exploring a change in Scottish legislation. Dogs must now have microchips, so one option would be to extend that to domestic cats.

Saving the wildcat will not be cheap. There is Scottish government and lottery funding of £2.5m over five years for initial research and rewilding, but costs will be ongoing. The hope is it will boost local economies and bring in tourist pounds, as well as put Scotland on the global map as a leader in conservation.

“As a country we want to be able to say we care about our landscape, we care about our environment, about the diversity. We do want to conserve our native species, we don’t want to have a country a bit like Australia that has been overrun with no native animals,” said Barclay.

“When we make the decision we don’t really care about our wildlife, or we don’t want to do that project because it is too controversial or it costs too much money, then we are bordering on giving up on the environment in Scotland,” he said.

Article taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/26/hopes-for-saving-scottish-wildcat-rest-on-captive-breeding-plan

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Beavers back for good in Scotland

(Adult beaver at Knapdale by Steve Gardner)

The two lead partners in the Scottish Beaver Trial – the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the Scottish Wildlife Trust – have warmly welcomed today’s (24 November 2016) announcement from the Scottish Government that the Eurasian beaver is to be formally recognised as a native species, 400 years after being hunted to extinction in the UK.

Returning beavers to Scotland’s lochs and rivers is the first formal mammal reintroduction in UK history. Today’s announcement is a major success story for conservation, and the culmination of nearly two decades’ work.

The project partners are delighted to be given the green light to reinforce the existing population in Knapdale, Argyll, and welcome the news that the established population on the River Tay will be allowed to remain in place. However, in order for the species to have a long-term future in Scotland and recolonise across much of its former range, further releases – following the Scottish Translocation Code and with the full support of a range of stakeholders – will be necessary over the next few years.

The Scottish Beaver Trial has set the standard for species reintroductions in the UK. Today’s announcement from the Scottish Government underlines the widespread benefits beavers can bring both to habitats, other species and the local economy.

These benefits include creating new wetlands that support a wide range of other species such as otters, water voles, fish and dragonflies; creating more diverse woodlands through naturally coppicing trees; and helping to regulate flooding and improve water quality. An increase in beavers is also certain to boost wildlife tourism in Scotland, helping to grow a sector that is already worth £127 million per year to our economy.

(Beaver at Loch of the Lowes by Ron Walsh)

The project partners recognise that beaver activity needs to be carefully monitored and managed, particularly where it impacts on other land uses. RZSS and the Scottish Wildlife Trust are committed to working closely with government, farmers, landowners and other key stakeholders to establish an effective management framework for the species, something which we would seek to put in place ahead of the next breeding season in March.

Barbara Smith, Chief Executive of RZSS, said: “Today is a truly historic day for Scottish conservation. Returning a keystone species to the wild for the first time in 400 years is a tremendous achievement for RZSS and our partners the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and we welcome the government’s commitment to the species both in Knapdale and further afield.

“Establishing a clear and comprehensive management plan for the species should now be our top priority, drawing upon IUCN best practice guidelines and bringing together stakeholders from across the conservation, land management and farming spectrum. We would urge government to take a lead on this issue and firm up plans ahead of the breeding season next spring.

“We also feel strongly that further release sites will need to be considered in the short- to medium-term if the species is to fully re-establish itself as part of the Scottish landscape.”

Jonathan Hughes, Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “This is a major milestone for Scotland’s wildlife and the wider conservation movement. Beavers are one of the world’s best natural engineers. Their ability to create new wetlands and restore native woodland is remarkable and improves conditions for a wide range of species including dragonflies, otters and fish.

“The return of beavers also has great potential for education and wildlife tourism. We have already seen at Knapdale how their presence is a tremendous draw for visitors from all over the world, which in turn brings social and economic benefits to the rural economy.

“We’re now looking forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government and partners in the next phase of this initiative. The Scottish Beaver Trial is a textbook example of how to approach the reintroduction of a keystone species that should set the standard for future projects.”

The Scottish Beaver Trial was a five-year partnership project between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and host Forestry Commission Scotland to undertake a time-limited, five-year trial reintroduction of Eurasian beavers to Knapdale, Mid-Argyll. It concluded in 2014.

Article taken from: http://www.rzss.org.uk/news/article/12236/beavers-back-for-good/

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New phase in Scottish red squirrel relocation project

Seventy red squirrels are to be trapped and then relocated to woodland in the north west Highlands as part of a scheme to boost numbers of the animals.

Trees for Life began the project in March when it released 33 red squirrels from Forres and Strathspey around Shieldaig in Wester Ross.

The Findhorn-based charity is now preparing to introduce 70 reds near Kinlochewe and Plockton.

The sites currently have no squirrels, Trees for Life said.

The charity, which is doing the work under a licence from Scottish Natural Heritage and with landowners’ consent, hopes to establish 10 new populations.

‘Long-lost homes’

The areas involved are too isolated for the squirrels to reach themselves.

But the locations do have habitat, and food, favoured by reds and may have supported populations of the animals in the past.

The areas are also free of non-native grey squirrels, which compete with the smaller reds for food and carry diseases fatal to the native species.

Becky Priestley, Trees for Life’s wildlife officer, said: “We are giving red squirrels a helping hand to return to some of their long-lost forest homes.

“Many Highland woodlands offer the species excellent habitat far from disease-carrying grey squirrels – but because reds travel between trees and avoid crossing large areas of open ground, they can’t return to isolated woodlands without our help.”

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Furry flit: How do you get a squirrel to move house?

Red squirrel

The squirrels are transported in nest boxes lined with hay and with food and water available, Trees for Life said.

Small numbers of the animals are moved from where they are trapped so as to avoid harming the survival of “donor populations”.

The captured squirrels are also checked for diseases before being transported.

At the new sites, the nest boxes are fitted to trees and the exit holes are opened and filled with grass, which the squirrels can push their way through to get outside.

Food is provided for several months while the animals become accustomed to their new habitat.

There are an estimated 138,000 red squirrels in the UK, Trees for Life said.

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Trees for Life said red squirrels introduced to woods around Shieldaig in March have bred and raised young.

The new phase of the project will involve animals trapped on land owned by Forestry Enterprise Scotland and others in Moray and near Inverness.

They will be relocated to the privately-owned Coulin Estate next to Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve, near Kinlochewe in Wester Ross, and to Plockton in Lochalsh.

Landowners involved include conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland.

Snack tubes

Red squirrels are not the only native species to be moved from one area to another in the interests of wildlife conservation.

In June it emerged that Scottish pine martens were raising young in Wales for the first time in a six year-long project.

Twenty pine martens were captured and released into the Welsh countryside last year.

Pine martenScottish pine martens are said to be thriving in Wales

The animals, one of Britain’s rarest carnivores, were caught by the Inverness, Ross and Skye team at Forestry Enterprise Scotland.

At least three of the 10 females captured were thought to have given birth to kits.

The capture and release of the Scottish martens forms part of the Welsh Pine Marten Recovery Project.

The animals were introduced to woodland owned by Natural Resources Wales and their behaviour is radio tracked.

Water voles have also been trapped in Scotland and relocated to England.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland staff and conservationists have used empty cardboard snack tubes for catching and handling feisty voles.

“Sometimes they can be a bit nippy,” said Roisin Campbell-Palmer, of RZSS, referring to the mammals’ bite.

RZSS is involved in vole conservation projects in England and previously worked on one in the Trossachs.

Water vole in a food snack tubeA “feisty” Scottish vole in a snack tube

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-37835177