A record number of rescued wild animals were returned to their natural habitat last year, according the Scottish SPCA.
The charity returned 4,651 animals to the wild after treatment in 2015, an increase of more than 1,800 in five years.
Carers believe it is due to a growing awareness of animals in danger and the creation of a £3.5 million national wildlife rescue centre in Fishcross, Clackmannanshire, which was funded entirely through donations.
Among those recently released were two five-week-old red squirrels found in Blairgowrie, Perth and Kinross. Named Jar Jar and Binks after the Star Wars character, they were discovered on the ground having likely fallen from their tree nest.
The pair had to be syringe-fed through the night before they were moved to an outdoor enclosure and eventually returned to their natural habitat.
They were joined at the rescue centre by fox cub Utah and otter cub Buddy, who are still being treated and learning how to fend for themselves. It is hoped they will be released later this year.
Speaking at the launch of the charity’s annual wildlife week, Fishcross centre manager Colin Seddon said: “Last year we were able to rescue and release more animals back to the wild than ever before.
“This was a 147 per cent increase on 2010’s figures, which is quite incredible.
“The significant rise is partly due to our relocation in 2012 to our national wildlife rescue centre in Fishcross from our former site in Dunfermline, which was being stretched to cope with the volume and diversity of animals we were rescuing.
“The £3.5m development which was funded entirely by donations, allows us to care for more sick, injured and orphaned wild animals than ever before.
“There is also an increased awareness among the Scottish public about how we can help sick, injured and orphaned wildlife, resulting in more people calling our helpline when they come across a distressed wild animal and we’ve invested significantly in our frontline staff so we now have even more officers to respond to call-outs.
“Releasing wild animals fit and healthy back to their natural habitats is always our aim wherever possible, so these statistics are incredibly encouraging.
“At Fishcross we benefit from on-site veterinary facilities which means we don’t have to move animals once they are here, keeping human interaction and stress to an absolute minimum. Our staff provide a very high standard of care for Scotland’s wildlife and we are tremendously proud of our progress.”
l Anyone who discovers an injured or distressed animal should call the Scottish SPCA animal helpline on 03000 999 999.