Golden Eagle Soars to No.1

The golden eagle has overwhelmingly topped a vote to pick Scotland's favourite wild animal. 

He's after my sandwiches, 42 kb
He's after my sandwiches
© Dan Bailey

The flying barn door was competing against red deer, red squirrel, harbour seal and otter in a head-to-head battle to determine the best loved of the country's 'Big 5'. Was it a fair contest? 

With almost 40 per cent of the thousands of votes recorded online the eagle was well above its rivals. The next closest was the red squirrel with 20 percent, then the red deer and the otter, with the poor old harbour seal in last place.

The poll [read: publicity campaign, Ed.] which closed yesterday was run jointly by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and VisitScotland as part of the Year of Natural Scotland 2013 [no one's quite sure what this is, but it does involve a lot of this sort of stuff, Ed.].

The vote may be a bit of trivia, but on the back of it Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse did manage to make a serious point:

'While we can be enormously proud of all our native wildlife, it is fitting that the magnificent golden eagle has topped this poll of Scotland’s ‘Big 5’ species' he said.

'At present Scotland is home to all of the UK’s breeding pairs of golden eagles, and the species has done well to recover after almost being wiped out in the last two centuries. However, recent incidents have shown that the golden eagle is still threatened by illegal persecution in some areas. We have a responsibility to protect this wonderful bird so that future generations can continue to enjoy its presence in our skies.'

Scotland’s Big 5 were selected because they were all high profile species, widely associated with Scotland, and with a broad geographical spread. 

Ian Jardine, SNH chief executive said: 

'The response to the campaign has been brilliant. There have been several alternative lists put forward for seabirds, game animals, trees and plants, and support for rarer species like the pine marten and wildcat. It has got people thinking about and talking about wildlife, and showing how much affection and pride people have, not just for the five species on the list, but for Scottish wildlife generally.'

VisitScotland promoted the campaign to millions of potential visitors, and suggested where best to see them in their natural environments.

'One of the key pillars of the year was to get as many people here at home out seeing parts of Scotland that they may not have been to before, and the Big 5 campaign has given us a fantastic opportunity to promote even the most remote areas of our wonderful country' said Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland.

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