Raise target for capercaillies

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CONCENTRATING purely on their relationship with pine martens is too narrow a focus to help Scotland’s capercaillies in any meaningful way ­(‘Capercaillie crisis sparks radical plan’, News, 28 July). The bird has been in decline, and has been for some time. Periodically, we get people throwing in their silver bullets to address things, but efforts are largely disjointed. The previous Species Action Plan for capercaillies sanctioned very significant investment in the species, and envisaged an increase in numbers to 5,000 by 2010. We got a reduction of nearly 50 per cent over that period, and the target was then described as “aspirational”.

The capercaillie is a wonderful bird, and it is now rapidly retreating to a core population on Speyside. They may hang on there for another 30 to 50 years, maybe even 100 years, but they will always be vulnerable when their numbers are so low. We should not be accepting of this as, sadly, many seem to be. We need a conservation plan designed to generate numbers again, and targets require to be ones which are delivered, not aspirational. We need someone to take a lead on this, but I can’t see it happening at present. We need this to change otherwise the capercaillie will eventually die out while we have been sitting around discussing what is best for them. The paralysis by analysis must somehow be brought to an end. We can’t leave it until the last minute.

Victor Clements, Native Woodland Advice, Aberfeldy