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Scottish Wildcat Action report theft and vandalism of conservation equipment to Police - Scottish Wildcat Action

An investigation is currently underway into vandalism and the theft of property belonging to Scottish Wildcat Action in Aberdeenshire’s Clashindarroch Forest, near Huntly.

On Wednesday 27 March 2018 Scottish Wildcat Action contacted Police Scotland after finding evidence that several of its trail cameras had been vandalised or stolen as well as the theft of valuable information.  The project also discovered evidence that a cage trap (inactive at the time) used for the live humane trapping (for neutering and health screening) of feral and obviously hybridised cats, had been vandalised.

This was discovered by staff and volunteers during routine visits to wildlife monitoring sites that are part of a winter wildlife survey, undertaken with all appropriate licenses from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and access permission from Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS). The various incidents took place between 1 March and 27 March in Clashindarroch Forest, near Huntly.

Anyone who may have witnessed anything is asked to contact Police Scotland quoting reference number 2301 of 27 March. Alternatively anyone can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

SWA Priorities Area Manager, Dr Roo Campbell, commented: “We are extremely disappointed by what has happened in Clashindarroch. Our conservation work is crucial to the continued survival of the critically endangered Scottish wildcat. Those responsible have not only damaged our equipment and robbed the project of vital scientific information but they have also curtailed work crucial to the conservation of the Scottish wildcat.  “What is particularly disappointing is the theft of our volunteers’ information. We have nearly 50 local people generously giving their time to help the project and they are devastated that their hard work has been stolen. We would appeal to anyone with information to get in touch with the Police.”

  

DNA breakthrough for wildlife crime - Scottish Government

Recovery of human DNA to help solve bird of prey offences.

Wildlife crime investigations could be supported by new research into retrieving human DNA found at the scene, even days after the incident has taken place. 

The research was initiated by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland and carried out by the Scottish Police Authority’s (SPA) Forensic Services, the Scottish Government and the University of Strathclyde.  It found DNA can be traced on traps that have been outside for at least 10 days, and from rabbit baits and bird carcasses at crime scenes after at least 24 hours.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, who is also chair of PAW Scotland, said: “Poisoning, trapping and shooting are all methods used to illegally target birds of prey, however investigations can often be hampered by a lack of evidence.  This new research will unlock the potential of using DNA profiles to track criminals and could play a crucial role in helping secure convictions for wildlife crime.  We continue to prioritise wildlife crime and are working to develop new ways to protect our precious birds of prey, including through a new wildlife crime detective post at Police Scotland HQ and a new team of special constables to tackle rural crime in the Cairngorms National Park.”

Steven Ferguson, Lead Forensic Scientist at SPA Forensic Services, said: “This exciting research in support of tackling wildlife crime demonstrates that DNA profiles can be obtained from items exposed to the elements in Scotland's sometimes harsh climate.   In recent years, over £6 million has been invested in new forensic capability in Scotland including DNA24, robotics and powerful software to successfully obtain DNA profiles in support of the Scottish justice system. The research undertaken by PAW has demonstrated that these same techniques, used in crimes ranging from housebreaking to murder, can also be used to identify those involved in persecuting birds of prey.”

  

Mysterious mushroom mixture set to boost reforestation of the Highlands - Trees for Life

In an innovative trial beginning this spring, Trees for Life will harness the power of local mushrooms to boost reforestation at its Dundreggan Conservation Estate in Glenmoriston near Loch Ness.  The conservation charity’s experts and volunteers are to introduce a special mix of spores collected from mushrooms on the Highland estate when planting native trees on the hills and when growing seedlings in Dundreggan’s tree nursery during this spring.  A pinch of the black granules containing the spores will be added to the planting holes of 20,000 trees in one section of the estate, and will also be applied to a selection of seedlings. 

Trees for Life's mysterious mushroom mixture (image: Trees for Life)The results of this trial will be monitored to see if treating selected trees and seedlings in this way improves their growth and decreases the need for fertiliser application. It is hoped the trees will have greater resistance to drought and heat, and protection against pests.

Trees for Life's mysterious mushroom mixture (image: Trees for Life)

“In tough, windswept environments such as those where we plant, newly planted trees need all the help they can get – especially in their early years. This magical mushroom mixture could speed up the return of the Caledonian Forest and its wildlife,” said Doug Gilbert, Trees for Life’s Operations Manager at Dundreggan.

Natural forest soils are full of these important fungi. But in very deforested areas such as the Highlands, forests still containing mushrooms are rare, small or fragmented, and are often separated by huge swathes of farmland and moorland. This means it can take years for fungi spores to land in the right place by newly planted trees – by which time the trees may be stunted or dead.  Last autumn, the first batch of a new mycorrhizal fungi treatment was made containing 59 species collected from the old-growth forests at Dundreggan by expert Jacob Whitson. Commercially available mycorrhizal treatments for trees are usually made from only a few mushroom species that may not be adapted to conditions in Scotland.

 

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