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Thread: Alladale Estate Game Reserve: Sutherland

  1. #1
    Widdler Alistair McCann 2's Avatar
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    When I first saw the article in TGO about the proposed game reserve in Sutherland /Easter Ross I was amazed. But after reading the article I had my doubts about how the whole project would be run.

    As far as I can understand its only the landowner who would be involved in the project and the daily running of the park. That strikes me as being very strange indeed. Here is an opportunity not just to make a few bucks but to do some scientific research into the re-introduction of some of Scotland's native species. Research must be done here, and that must be controlled by a government authority.

    Carefull consideration into what types of habitat the animals require plus how the animals interact with each other and people is a must.

    It is an opportunity to inform the public about the different animals so that people can see the pros and cons of reintroduction and are then able to form their own oppinion.

    I should maybe say that I now live in Sweden where I work are a wilderness guide, and in the forests around my house you can find bear, lynx, wolves and sometimes wolverine. For about 20 years ago wolves started to move back to Sweden after being extinct for over 100 years. That has caused a huge amount of debate about whether they should be allowed to stay here and what forms of control are needed. People are worried and scared about the wolves presence here, both for their own safety and of dangers to livestock. People here are just starting to learn about how wolves really are, and that they pose little or no danger to their safety. Through informing the populous and encouraging debate a certain level of tollerance has been reached, but this process has taken a long time and is far from complete.

    I dont know when they plan to open the park in Scotland but I would like to see a more active role taken be the authorities, and would like to see a lot more debate around the whole question regarding reintroduction of native species.

    I am for the project, but only if it is properly regulated, and proper consideration is given to other hill users!

    Alistair McCann

  2. #2
    Ultra King Dave O aka Jungle Dave ;)'s Avatar
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    Having looked at these sort of things whilst studying at Uni, here we go....

    The re-introduction of Carnivores such as Lynx, Wolves etc is not without its problems, as Alistair has said above it takes a long time to for people's misconceptions regarding Wolves and other large carnivores to be dispelled.

    I don't know much about this idea in Scotland, (Any Info/details much appreciated) but from what Alistair has said I'm very suprised that only the landowner seems interested.

    Such an idea would be excellent if it works but will need carefull planning and managing if it is to suceed, as for debate about which native species to introduce, such a debate is constantly happening in the conservation community.

    The main species being considered would be one's which became extinct many years ago,l i.e. Wolves & Lynx (there probablly are others but I can't remember and don't have any papers etc in front of me at the mo!).

    If such a project was to happen then I would hope that Scottish Nature or similar bodies would produce detailed management plans and timetables for the venture.

    Alistair also mentions proper consideration given to other hill users and that is a fair point, though I would have thought that any species re-introduced are more likely to be afraid of humans, than we are of them. From memory a similar project was tried in the Carpathian Mountains and I don't recall any reports of attacks on humans.

    Hope this sheds some light on to things.

    Ps Alistair, which TGO was it? and whereabouts in Sweeden do you live, it sounds idillic.

  3. #3
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    As I mentioned in the other 're-introduction of predators in Scotland' type thread, I seem to remember reading that there is *no* recorded incident of a non-rabid wolf attacking a human.

  4. #4
    Widdler Alistair McCann 2's Avatar
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    Hi
    Hope you didnt missunderstand me or its maybe just how i wrote it. I meant that hinders to access to this area should me minimised. How they should do this I dont know.

    As an answer to the wolf attack question, there was a person killed in Sweden by a wolf, but that was roughly 100 years ago. But this was a wolf which had been reared for hand, and as a reult of which had no fear of humans. Regarding the other predators I would consider bears, and wild boars to be the most dangerous. Normally European Brown Bears run for the hills at the slightest scent of a human, I personally have never seen one. The only time they are dangerous is when they have young, if you get too close to their kill, or if you disturb them during hibernation. The last person to be killed by a bear in Sweden was a hunter who had shot the bear but not killed it, which is a very dangerous situation. This happened last year. Wild Boars are not too fimiliar to me as they do not live in coniferous forests, but they do have a reputation for having a bad temper and are becoming a major problem in southern Sweden.

  5. #5
    ‹bermensch Chris Townsend's Avatar
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    Dave, Scottish Natural Heritage are the body working on the reintroduction of extinct native species. SNH held a public consulatation on the reintroduction of beaver:

    http://www.snh.org.uk/news/pc-bea00.asp

    You can find the TGO article here:

    http://www.tgomagazine.co.uk/article...id=447&id=7134

    The landowners plans are to fence his huge estate and introduce wolves into this giant enclosure. This would go completely against the new access legislation and I can't imagine he could get permission for this. Apparently he is trying to get a zoo licence and then have Health and Safety say he must fence the land to keep the wolves in.

    I have walked - alone - for many months in wolf and bear country in the USA and Canada. I've seen wild wolves a couple of times - a great privilege - and heard them howling at night many more times, a wonderful wild sound. Wolves aren't a threat to humans who leave them alone. Bears are a different matter, at least in North America, and you do need to protect your food from them and take care not to come on one unexpectedly. Even so bear attacks are incrdibly rare. Lightning, drowning, falling off cliffs, hypothermia, getting lost are all far more likely.

  6. #6
    Ultra King Dave O aka Jungle Dave ;)'s Avatar
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    Cheers for That Chris

    I would say then the guy is aiming for ex-situ conservation rather than reintroduction which is dissapointing, a large fence as you say doesn't sit very well with current access legislation.

  7. #7
    Goon Brianetta's Avatar
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    There are wolves in Longleat. Surely any fenced-off zoo is just a fenced-off zoo? If it's a zoo, who (aside from those buying tickets) really cares what animals are inside? There could be hippos and giraffes, for all the difference it makes to the country's ecology.

    I'm happy with the idea of reintroduction of top predators, as long as their habitat is still suitable. I'm not too enamoured with the idea of a fenced-off enclosure which is basically a safari park. It wouldn't be big enough, that the park's staff wouldn't have to feed the animals.

    Then, of course, there's the bad precedent set by allowing land owners to fence off their accessible land this way.

  8. #8
    ‹bermensch Chris Townsend's Avatar
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    The point with the Alladale Estate is that it would be big enough. It's a huge area including at least one Munro (I can't remember the actual boundaries offhand).

    Landowners aren't allowed to fence off land in Scotland.

  9. #9
    Initiate ecco's Avatar
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    All this talk about introducing wild carnivores into the highlands and the activities of the SNH irks me a little.

    Just what's wrong with the highlands as they are ? I've never seen wolves or bears there so why do I need to see them now ? They might have been there many years ago but so were glaciers, disease & war. I don't particularly want those back either. The fatuous agrument about deer numbers is nothing that a massive concerted cull wouldn't cure.

    The highlands model that we have today works very well. Access is easy - in all my years of walking in the highlands I have never encountered problems accessing estate land that a courteous enquiry hasn't solved. The only place where I was attempted to be denied access was on the SNH controlled isle of Rum (Rhum?)when I wanted to visit the beach at kilmory. I was told that it was closed to the masses because of a long term deer study. I went anyway and found 2 "researchers" sunbathing. Just what have they studied about deer that generations of stalkers can't tell us ? I was further irritated by lazy SNH employees driving everywhere by landrover and then moaning about the erosion of the roads ! They need a firm reminder of who's money they're spending.

    It seems to me that there are too many green hearted but self centred busybodies trying to interfere with something that doesn't particularly need fixing.

    Rant over !

  10. #10
    ‹bermensch Chris Townsend's Avatar
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    Ecco, I like the Highlands as they are too - in part at least. Having wolves and bears (and beaver and other less charismatic species) isn't to do with being able to see them - the chances are that few people would ever see them anyway - it's to do with restoring a damaged ecosystem so it can be self-sustaining. Much of the Highland landscape is in a very poor state and still deteriorating due to overgrazing. A massive cull would solve this, as you say, and is, I think, far more important than reintroducing wolves or bears. However culls would have to continue to keep deer numbers at the right level without predators to do this.

    Much of the Highlands does need "fixing". It's not in a healthy state. Reintroducing wolves and bears is that the distant end of what needs to be done though. Forest and montane restoration and regeneration must come first.

    SNH are a government body acting under instruction from the Scottish Executive. Reintroducing extinct species and restoring ecosystems is a requirement the UK signed up to at various UN summits on the environment. If you don't like what SNH are doing complain to their bosses - the politicians.

    As far as access goes I too have had no problems over the years, though I have ignored many intimidating notices, especially those in Glen Lyon. The new access legislation means such notices should disappear. My concern with the Alladale Estate plans is that any reintroduction of any species should not be used as an excuse to restrict or prevent access.




  11. #11
    Initiate ecco's Avatar
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    Chris,

    I'm not quite sure what really needs fixing in the highlands apart from the obvious.

    The older problem of deforestation is something that can be addressed in some areas but just because the highlands were once forested doesn't mean that they need to be returned to that state at the taxpayers expense. Selective planting, for example at flowerdale, is ideal but I'm wary of large schemes which migh involve fencing or just make access difficult.

    The newer one of mountain erosion is perhaps the more serious. The number of people heading into the hills has dramatically increased as a result of otherwise sedentary lifestyles, better gear and easier & cheaper transport. More investment into footpath maintenance would be welcome but its always going to be a problem when you have more traffic

    Overgrazing, once again is something a mass cull would help.

    I'd much prefer the releveant bodies devote themselves to these immediate threats rather than debate carnivores. Unfortunately, I think organisations such as SNH are as motivated by self presevation as they are by their charters. I worry that too much power will lead to national park type models for the highlands with the resultant restrictions on wild camping and the great go where you please, do what you please highlands that we enjoy today. I'd hate it to end up (for my children) like new zealand with permits, enforced huts etc.


  12. #12
    ‹bermensch Chris Townsend's Avatar
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    Ecco, I agree with you on fencing. Apart from access problems (for those unprepared to scale fences) they are ugly, reduce any feeling of being in the wilds and produce unnatural looking blocks of trees. I'd much rather see a reduction in grazing and then whatever regeneration takes place afterwards, as at Creag Meagaidh, where I think SNH has done an excellent job. The only reason for a big deer cull is to allow regeneration of both trees and montane vegetation. Deer numbers aren't a problem otherwise.

    The biggest problem with tracks is bulldozed ones rather than footpaths. Far more money does need to be spent on paths but even more should be spent removing bulldozed roads. Landowners should be prevented from building more too.

    We already have national parks in the Highlands - I live in one! I don't see that national parks will in anyway restrict access or prevent wild camping. The right to wild camp is built into the access legislation anyway, so it's a legal right for the first time.

    I think a main way to avoid permits and camping restrictions is for walkers and campers to take care to minimise their impact. Such restrictions often come in when land is being damaged.

    After all this I must say that at present I think the biggest danger to the Highlands comes from the proposals for the new giant pylons from Ullapool to Beauly and down through the Cairngorms National Park and from some of the wind farm proposals such as Drumnaglas.

  13. #13
    Initiate ecco's Avatar
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    Chris,
    I would respectfully point out that you live in a national park where they've put a railway up a mountain ! The title doesn't necessarily confer sanctuary or good land management.

    I agree to a point about bulldozed roads. They are visible scars and need strong regulation but increasingly footpaths are being overwhelmed by traffic and subsequent water erosion. As walkers move to the sides to avoid the puddles they widen the paths. Unfortunately, I can see a time when a well constructed & properly drained "road" is the only way to manage traffic into some of the more popular areas. We need to recognise that traffic levels into the hills will only ever increase and the answers can only lie in compromise.

    I completely agree about the pylons. The windfarms are just about bearable but the pylon infrastructures are a complete travesty. I worry greatly when big money meets politicians and land gets in the way !

  14. #14
    ‹bermensch Chris Townsend's Avatar
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    Ecco, the railway was put up before the national park was created! Of course you're right that the title national park doesn't confer good practice. It just makes it more likely and easier to do, especially as the first duty of the park is conservation. So far I'd say the results are mixed but it's still early days. The park board has done some things I agree with and some I don't. A big test will be when Southern and Scottish Energy formally put forward the pylon plans (so far they have just published the proposed line). Will the park object to the proposal?

    A properly sited, designed and built path can handle large amounts of traffic. Just look at some of the nineteenth century stalking paths, many of which haven't had any work done on them in decades but which are still in reasonable condition. One of the worst paths in this area - Glenmore to the summit of Meall a'Bhuachaille - has just been renovated by Forest Enterprise. The results look a bit raw but once they've weathered a little it should be a great improvement. The John Muir Trust's new path up Schiehallion looks good too. Here the original path was abandoned and a new line taken that should be much more durable. A scar that badly needs attention is the path up Carn Liath above Blair Atholl.

    Path usage in part depends on people management, whether direct or indirect. The siting of car parks in particular can determine where walks start. Visitor centres have an effect too. The scar up Ben Lawers from the NTS centre is a case in point. (To be fair, the NTS has improved enormously in recent years and now takes wild land conservation very seriously. They have done a great job in removing the high level bulldozed road on Beinn a'Bhuirdh.)

    Even severely eroded footpaths seem less of an intrusion to me than bulldozed roads and 4WD tracks.

    With the pylons it's very important that everyone opposed to them writes to the politicians - MSPs and MPs, the DTI in London (energy isn't a devolved issue), the Scottish Executive and Highland Council - as well as the electricity company. I think they will only not go ahead if there is enough public opposition.


  15. #15
    Mini Goon
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    Ecco there's a book which details results from the red deer study on Rum, if you really want to know what they've discovered. Unfortunately I can't remember the title. I found it informative, but then I'm not a stalker of any type! As regards the SNH, because of political pressures, I have heard tales of it not opposing developments which to say the least are environmentally rather suspect.

  16. #16
    ‹bermensch Chris Townsend's Avatar
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    There's a report on the deer study here: http://www.dcs.gov.uk/a_whatAgencies.htm.

    SNH is certainly susceptible to political pressures. Its a government agency. SNH didn't oppose the Cairngorm Mountain Railway. If it had the railway might not have been built. Overall though I think SNH does some good work, within the confines of being a government bureaucracy.

  17. #17
    Mini Goon
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    The European Large Carnivore Initiative is principally concerned with the preservation of the current population of animals (wolves, lynx and bear) in existing territories, and the promotion of co-operation with the local farming communities. It has a number of active projects, including the Carpathian Large Carnivore Project in Zarnesti, Romania. They have some funding from government sources and gain additional money from promoting eco-tourism. You get a tour of the Zarnesti project for around 100 euros - probably more now.

    I read an article in the weekend papers (can't remember if it was the Telegraph or the Sunday Times) describing the proposals for the Alladale estate. It filled me with horror. It is agreed that wolves run like mad to escape from humans but not so their sheep and chickens. Not that we believe everything we read in the newspapers, but the proposed solution to this was indeed to fence off a large area of the estate to protect the outlying terrain occupied by the crofting community. Access issues for walkers was referred to, but it all sounded extremely half baked to me. Anything a walker could climb over, a wolf could probably achieve too.

    An obvious problem: - the poor wolves are working hard to survive where they are in the wild. They work in packs. How do you transport an established pack of wolves to Sutherland? Catch a few pregnant ones in Utah and pop them on an aeroplane to Inverness? Or do you pick a few of the hardier beasts from Edinburgh Zoo and point them up the A9? The beasts would be dead on arrival.

    In theory, a fine idea to control the red deer population and provide a charming hobby for the laird of Alladale.

    There is no public consultation or education on the subject, so there is a long way to go before this suggestion can be taken seriously in the slightest.

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    Mini Goon
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  19. #19
    Ultra King Dave O aka Jungle Dave ;)'s Avatar
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    Gwen, I think your last sentance hits the nail on the head, and is many ways the key to any reintroduction scheme, unless people are consulted and the public are given a chance to understand the facts rather than specualtion then there any such scheme will probably fail.

  20. #20
    ‹bermensch Chris Townsend's Avatar
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    Gwen and Dave, I agree with you both. Alladale is a non starter because it's one rich landowner making plans without consulatation or scientific research. The case study here is the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction, which has been a great success. The wolves were transported down from Canada, so it is possible to move them great distances without harm.

    See:

    http://www.yellowstone-natl-park.com/wolf.htm

    http://www.wolftracker.com

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