THE iconic golden eagle has emerged as the clear nation’s favourite in a competition run by Scottish Natural Heritage and VisitScotland to vote for Scotland’s favourite wild animal.
The bird of prey attracted almost twice as many votes as the red squirrel in second place with the red deer, otter and harbour seal taking the other top five places.
Thousands of votes were recorded online following the campaign launch in the Spring and voting closed yesterday .
Paul Wheelhouse, Scotland’s Environment and Climate Change Minister, said: “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.
“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.”
Ian Jardine, the SNH chief executive said: “The response to the campaign has been brilliant. Thousands of people have voted for their favourite from Scotland’s Big 5 list. 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.”
An SNH spokesman explained: “Through the partnership with SNH, VisitScotland promoted the campaign to millions of potential visitors and where best to see them in their natural environments.
This saw all of Scotland’s Big 5 championed through a series of billboard advertisements in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Alongside this, TV personality Neil Oliver lent his voice to an extensive radio campaign, with written press and online content specially developed throughout the year.”
Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, added: “We’ve been absolutely delighted with the response that Scotland’s Big 5 campaign has received, and it has been a cornerstone of our celebrations for the Year of Natural Scotland 2013.
“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.”
Total votes - 12417
Golden Eagle - 4773
Red Squirrel - 2523
Red Deer - 1819
Otter - 1794
Harbour Seal - 725