Three cheers for Scotland’s wildlife heroes

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Three cheers for Scotland’s wildlife heroes

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RSPB Scotland's Nature of Scotland Awards are officially open for entry! Nominate your wildlife heroes or submit your own project by clicking here

Since the launch of the RSPB's Nature of Scotland Awards in 2012, almost 50 inspirational people and projects have been recognised for their outstanding achievements in Scottish nature conservation.

Each year, we launch a search for the country's unsung wildlife heroes - the passionate people who are working tirelessly to protect and enhance our natural world for the benefit of everyone in it.

It may be someone who's created a public park or garden in their local community, a project committed to protecting a threatened species or an enthusiastic political campaigner who's taking the fight for the environment to the Scottish Parliament.

We believe they all deserve their moment in the spotlight; to be recognised for their hard work, to share their discoveries with others and to hopefully inspire even more people to get involved with saving nature.

Entries for the 2017 Nature of Scotland Awards open today (Monday 13 March) and to celebrate, we thought we would look back at some of the stand out projects from the last five years. Details of how to enter this year and all of the award categories on offer can be found at the end of this blog.

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels

There are fewer than 120,000 red squirrels living in Scotland – 75% of the UK’s total population. They are under threat from invasive non-native grey squirrels pushing them out of key habitats and also from the deadly squirrel pox virus. Under the banner ‘The Return of Aberdeen’s Red Squirrels’, Aberdeen City Council has been working together with the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project to stop and reverse the decline of these mammals in the north-east. The initiative has been hugely successful and was awarded the RSPB Species Champion Award.

Mollusc of the Glen 

Freshwater pearl mussels are globally endangered and a high proportion of the world’s remaining populations can be found in Scotland. The volunteer organisation Alba Ecology set up the ‘Mollusc of the Glen’ project to help conserve this species by undertaking new research into freshwater pearl mussels, raising awareness of the threats they face and also to engaging others in their protection. During the initiative, Alba Ecology discovered the only unexploited freshwater pearl mussel river in Scotland and the UK. As a result, the Environment Minister instructed Scottish Natural Heritage (the Scottish Government’s environmental advisory body) to review the protection afforded to pearl mussels in Scotland. Mollusc of the Glen picked up the RSPB Species Champion Award in 2014.

Fishing for Litter 

Marine litter is a serious problem which kills hundreds of thousands of sea birds and mammals each year. The Fishing for Litter project was formed by a group of fishermen and harbour staff who volunteer their time to tackle the issue and at the time of winning the Marine Conservation Award in 2015, had facilitated the removal of over 800 tonnes of marine litter from the waters around Scotland’s coastline. The group also raises awareness of the problem of marine litter to try and prevent rubbish reaching this environment in the first place.

Cairngorms Peatland Restoration

The Cairngorms National Park contains some of the UK’s most important upland habitats; one fifth of the space is blanket bog, but over half of that is in a degraded state. The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) has been working to restore damaged peatland across 367 ha of land using new methods that haven’t been trialled in Scotland before. Just six months in, the results were spectacular, with sphagnum plants once again growing on treated areas. CNPA successfully demonstrated that their new methods could benefit restoration work going on in other parts of Scotland and won the Innovation Award at the Nature of Scotland Awards.


The Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) was established in 1995 by two divers who had witnessed the destructive effects of overfishing and dredging on marine life. It is now recognised as one of the UK’s leading marine organisations and was honoured with the Marine Conservation Award in 2014. COAST works to promote sustainable marine management, deliver education programmes and maintain strong links with universities to ensure independent scientific research.

Castle Loch

In 2013, Castle Loch in Dumfries & Galloway came up for sale and the residents of Lochmaben and the surrounding areas rallied together under the banner of ‘Castle Loch Lochmaben Community Trust’ to purchase this historically and environmentally important site. The Trust’s ownership ensured the continued conservation of wildlife on the land and encouraged the whole community to get involved in saving nature. In their first year alone, 82 volunteers signed up to help develop Castle Loch and together gave 1,000 hours of their time. Castle Loch Lochmaben Community Trust took home the Community Initiative Award in 2015.

There are nine Nature of Scotland Award categories available for entry in 2017: RSPB Species Champion, Marine Conservation, Political Advocate of the Year, Corporate, Youth and Education, Innovation, Community Initiative, Food and Farming, and Nature Tourism.

The Nature of Scotland Awards shortlist will be unveiled at a Parliamentary Reception in September and the winners will be announced at a special Presentation Dinner in November. The closing date for entries is Monday 12 June. Get more information and submit your application by clicking here.

  • John Muir Country Park is my favourite place in Scotland