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Scotland’s Predators: A Tourism Asset

Carnivores are on the agenda when the Scottish wildlife tourism association, Wild Scotland meets for its Annual Meeting in Perthshire on Thursday 8 November.

The aim of the event is to raise awareness of the value of Scotland’s predators to the tourism economy. Carnivores such as eagles, wildcats and dolphins are considered amongst the most iconic wildlife species and their contribution towards the tourism industry is often overlooked.

Wildlife and bird watching in Scotland is valued at £160m, according to The UK Tourism Survey 2006, with over 2 million visitors taking part in wildlife watching during their holiday in Scotland each year.

Caroline Warburton of Wild Scotland comments: “The chance to see Scotland’s predators is one of the most sought after experiences for wildlife tourists. An encounter with an eagle, otter or wildcat creates an enduring memory and is undoubtedly a powerful image in promoting Scotland.“
Predators in Scotland range from the wildcat, pine marten, red fox, grey seal and otter to even the domestic cat and issues relating to these species, such as fox hunting, bird of prey poisoning and even the reintroduction of wolves have always been controversial issues. 

Warburton continues: “We want to highlight the value of these animals to the tourism economy. Historically, many of these animals were seen as pests however as the wildlife tourism sector grows these species are increasingly seen as assets on which an increasing number of rural jobs depend.”

Presentations will be given by Des Thompson, Chair of the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme and nature photographer Peter Cairns who is currently working on a project called ‘Tooth and Claw’ which looks at the UK’s relationship with predators.

Peter Cairns of Tooth and Claw comments:  “Our relationship with predators has always been fractious and today they remain hostage to our own attitudes and priorities. Recent decades have seen a major change in what predators mean to different people but there remain entrenched positions, all hiding behind their respective fences. The mud-slinging that dogs many predator discussions does nothing to further constructive dialogue – the secret surely lies in taking those fences away. Managing predators in Britain today is rarely about the animal itself, it is about managing people’s perceptions – what they believe and what they value.”

Professor Des Thompson, Policy and Advice Manager in Scottish Natural Heritage and Chairman of the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme comments: “We need to think imaginatively about how we can capitalise on the birds of prey of Scotland.  Tourism in rural Scotland could be galvanised by creating more opportunities to see these birds, and of course by securing a safer environment for these birds in some parts.  We have to move forward from the tired and derogatory headlines about raptor persecution to those which celebrate something special for people to see and enjoy. “

Wildlife tourism businesses will be attending the event together with representatives from the conservation and country sports sectors.

Wild Scotland is Scotland’s Wildlife Tourism Association created in 2003 to establish Scotland as Europe’s top wildlife watching destination. It is a business association with over 65 members from across Scotland.

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