Building on a report published by Scottish Natural Heritage last year, a new project will help boost the number of golden eagles in the South of Scotland.
The project will look in detail at further work needed to revive the population, and build on the excellent partnership forged to realise the ambition of having more of these birds in the south.
Dr McLeod formally launched the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project at Langholm Moor earlier this week.
The importance of such conservation projects has been underlined by recent incidences of raptor persecution.
Dr McLeod commented: “Golden eagles are truly magnificent birds and it is very exciting that the South of Scotland could potentially support more than a dozen pairs. This new project at Langholm Moor is a great opportunity to re-establish this species in this area along with all the environmental and economic benefits that brings.
“It is particularly encouraging to see so many partners working hard to return golden eagles to the skies above the South of Scotland, in a way that enables grouse shooting to co-exist alongside birds of prey.
“I am absolutely determined that the persecution of raptors will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
“The Scottish Government has already taken action to put an end to the illegal killing of wild birds and I will continue to take whatever steps are necessary, which could include further tightening the law.”
This project has its roots in a joint initiative between Scottish Land & Estates and RSPB Scotland who came together in the summer of 2008 to produce a proposal with the aim of trying to understand what was limiting the golden eagle population in the South of Scotland.
This resulted, last year, in a Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) published report ‘Golden Eagles in the South of Scotland: an overview’. This new project builds on the 2014 report published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), which found that Southern Scotland could potentially support up to 11 to 13 pairs.
Presently, there are no more than two to four pairs of golden eagles in Southern Scotland, with limited nesting success.