The Cairngorms National Park Authority and NatureScot have been asked to lead a coordinated action plan for capercaillie by Lorna Slater, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Green Skills, Circular Ecoomy and Biodiversity.
Capercaillie numbers have decreased by over 50% in the last five years with the latest national survey (2021/2022) estimating there are only 542 capercaillie left in Scotland. Those involved in trying to save capercaillie from extinction have welcomed the continued commitment from Scottish Government as well as the news that lek counts in some areas have increased, along with the interesting findings from the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) research to identify the genetic diversity of the Scottish capercaillie population, commissioned by the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project.
The letter from Lorna Slater to the Park Authority can be read here: Restoring Scotland’s Capercaillie Population
What happens now?
The Park Authority and NatureScot are tasked with bringing together stakeholders from across the spectrum to explore a range of options. This will involve developing a spatial plan to coordinate activities from fence marking and removal, to working with access takers and expanding pinewood habitat at landscape scale. Scottish Government have also asked the partnership to undertake a survey of pine marten to better understand their distribution and impacts.
To begin developing and coordinating these activities, a workshop with key stakeholders will be taking place in Aviemore on Wednesday 16th August.
What does this mean for the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project?
The main overlap between future plans for capercaillie and the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project is around the issue of human disturbance. The project is working at scale with visitors, residents and businesses across the Cairngorms National Park to facilitate community-led action to reduce human disturbance to capercaillie. This has never been done at scale before.
The insights and learning the project can offer on the benefits and challenges of enabling community-led and therefore sustainable solutions to reducing disturbance, is unequalled anywhere else in Scotland. This means that the project will play a central role in helping to shape work delivered in response to Ms Slater’s letter.
The project’s genetic studies will also be a strong foundation for any consideration of translocation; and lessons learnt from the project’s funding of fence marking and removal as well as habitat enhancement have already fed in to the design and implementation of future funding programmes.
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Read the full report from the RZSS WildGenes laboratory