The first of its kind

Martin Gaywood of Scottish Natural Heritage and Pete Hollingsworth from the Royal  Botanic Garden Edinburgh look at the new Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations.

Collecting Freshwater Pearl Mussels for translocation.

Collecting Freshwater Pearl Mussels for translocation.

In recent years Scotland has seen an increasing number of ‘conservation translocation’ projects involving animals and plants that have been deliberately moved and released into the wild for conservation purposes.

Indeed some of Scotland’s best known species projects have been translocations – examples have included the trial reintroduction of beaver to Knapdale Forest in Argyll, and the reintroduction of the white-tailed eagle. But there have also been translocations of less well known species such as woolly willow, pine hoverfly, freshwater pearl mussel and vendace.


Woolly willow

Woolly willow

Conservation translocations can provide a conservation benefit by increasing the number of individuals or places in which a species can occur. They can also offset biodiversity declines caused by habitat loss, climate change, or other human impacts on the environment.

Many conservation translocations are low-risk and can be achieved with minimal biological or socio-economic effects. However, some have the potential for negative impacts on the environment and land uses.

Ground breaking forum

Therefore a few years ago the ‘National Species Reintroduction Forum’ was established. The Forum is chaired by Scottish Natural Heritage and has a membership representing a range of stakeholders from land use, conservation and science sectors. The overall role of the Forum is to contribute to broad scale, strategic issues relating to species reintroductions and other types of conservation translocations in Scotland. We believe it is the first of its kind anywhere.

Red Kite

Red Kite

The Forum has now produced a ‘Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations’ and accompanying ‘Best Practice Guidelines for Conservation Translocations in Scotland’. They were drafted by Scottish Natural Heritage and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh on behalf of the Forum, and launched by Scotland’s Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, in early July.

This new Code is not an advocacy document for translocations, but guides the process of evaluating whether a translocation is appropriate, and if so, how to increase the likelihood of successful outcomes, and reduce the likelihood of problems and conflict.

They are based on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s 2013 Guidelines for Reintroductions and Other Conservation Translocations, but they provide a special focus on both Scottish socio-economic and biological issues.

The significant involvement and approval of 26 different members of the NSRF also means that they represent a unique approach that has been agreed across a wide range of conservation and land use organisations.

Find out more by going to

Images (c) Lorne Gill / SNH, except Red Kite (c) Mark Hamblin


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