Jul 112016

animals-176860_960_720With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Duthie Gardens will host a Butterfly Identifying and Recording Workshop this Wednesday.
Anyone interested should book now to secure a place on this workshop (Wednesday July 13, 10am to 3pm) to find out how to identify and record butterflies in your area.

Participants will spend the morning indoors at the Duthie Winter Gardens learning about butterflies, then go for a walk in the gardens in the afternoon.

Please bring your own packed lunch and suitable shoes and clothing for the outdoor session.

This workshop is led by Butterfly Conservation Scotland Staff and is part of the Urban Butterfly Project.

Loss of habitat, use of pesticides, weather, climate change are all having an impact on the butterfly and moth populations of Scotland.

Conservation is key, and everyone can do their part to help butterflies. Leave a corner of your garden with long grass and plants that butterflies use. Learn more on this course.

For more information visit the Urban Butterfly Project

To book one of the few remaining spaces, contact amcclusky@butterfly-conservation.org or call 01786 459 811.

Nov 062015

roe-deer-fawn-picWith thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Aberdeen City’s officers and the Liberal Democrats pushed for the so-called ‘Tree For Every Citizen’ scheme in 2012.

A Council officer promised the scheme was going to be cost neutral, and would have income. A herd of roe deer was veritably wiped out in a move 80% of the citizens objected to. How’s the scheme actually doing three and a half years later?

Despite the desperate claims of the city, the scheme is teetering on the brink of complete failure, witnessed by photographs and Forestry Commission documents.

More penalties possible?:

A Freedom of Information request saw the Forestry Commission releasing a report from 2014 which listed a catalogue of failings, and warned that the city might have to pay penalties if remedial actions were not carried out, which included weeding. These photographs were taken in early October at different points on the hill. Clearly, the weeds are winning over the trees.

Some of these documents, photos of the weeds smothering the trees, and the city’s figures from April on road accidents can be found here.

The city pressed ahead with the scheme despite having earlier paid a penalty of £43,800 for the failure of Phase 1 of the scheme on the hill.

Forestry Commission reporting advises that it is unlikely a large scale planting on Tullos Hill would succeed. The hill was used for industrial and domestic dumping for many years, but had supported deer, small mammals, birds and a variety of wildflowers.

A councillor had attempted to keep the hill as a meadow (meadowland is considered the fastest-disappearing type of green space) – but this was turned down by the officer supporting the TFEC scheme, on the grounds that it would be more expensive to enhance the existing meadow than to plant the trees.

Far from being cost neutral, the scheme has cost several hundred thousand pounds to date. With the potential for further penalties, the city is still pressing ahead with the scheme, which may require further animal culls, and further herbicide use.

To avoid penalties, the Forestry Commission wrote to Aberdeen City:

“All areas to be stocked to the minimum density as required by the model chosen. There is no allowance for over stocked areas to compensate for any areas where stocking does not meet the specification. The species found must match the species detailed on the map

  • All required weeding to be up to date and effectively controlling all weedspecies
  • Healthy and viable trees.”

Robust figures?:

The pressure group was meant to have the complete and accurate accounts sent to it covering all costs for the Tree For Every Citizen Scheme. It was immediately apparent that there was data missing. Not all known costs appeared on the spreadsheets released by the City (Aberdeen took over 5 months to deliver information which is held electronically).

The £43,800 penalty from the previous failure was missing, as were some costs identified in a previous freedom of information request. Some of the entries, totalling thousands of pounds are marked ‘unknown’ in the description column. Kelly is still awaiting answers to detailed questions put to the city. Even so, hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on the Tullos Hill scheme, with the consultant, Chris Piper, receiving a five figure sum for his work and expenses.

Campaign Group’s Reaction:

Suzanne Kelly, a campaigner with the Save The Tullos Hill Deer Group said:

“Common sense has left the building, and anyone with eyes can see the weeds tower over the trees. The Forestry Commission report lists a catalogue of problems with the planting – lack of growth, lack of density, weeds, rabbit browsing, but funnily enough the spreadsheet doesn’t make mention of deer browsing, but the cover letter does. I’ve not seen a single tree guard knocked over as if browsed by deer. 

“What I have seen on my frequent visits is weeds towering over the vast majority of trees. Residents and community councils were over ruled by the city on this one, and as a result we’ve incurred hundreds of thousands of pounds in costs, and are probably looking at further penalties. I do not understand how the officer who insisted that this scheme was cost neutral is not held to account for the dismal state of the finances and the dismal state of the trees. 

“We had deer and a meadow. We now have a small number of trees that grew taller than the weeds – and per an earlier Forestry Commission report, the soil matrix is so poor they are likely to topple in strong winds. This was a waste of time, money and was done at the expense of existing wildlife. I’d be ashamed to be the consultant who earned over £100,000 for this scheme, or the officers who pushed it on an unwilling public.

“We are now told that deer account for an accident on the roads per week. However, repeated requests for that raw data are met with silence. The data I did see from the city in April was flawed in that it contained two incidents outwith the city, and included a deer found in a nature reserve car park. 

“As to the promised income? A recent Freedom of Information request says we might get some small income – if the trees grow – in 75 to 100 years. Someone should be losing their job over this in my opinion.”

In case anyone still thinks that the city actually cares about wildlife and biodiversity, the huge swathes of greenbelt given over for development puts paid to that.

So to do the comments made by Peter Leonard. In his report to the Housing commission Leonard wrote about engaging with landowners over deer management.

However, in an exchange with Suzanne Kelly, she wrote:

“There will be further animal deaths on the road – not least because of the development of wildlife habitat at Loirston Loch. As far as I can learn, absolutely no provision has been made for deer or small mammals to be relocated.”

Leonard’s reply was:

“This will be for the developer to answer.”

This hardly echoes the newly-found concern for the safety of motorists or wildlife.

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Oct 222015

roe-deer-fawn-picWith thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Animal welfare activists and Aberdeen citizens opposed to deer culling have welcomed a promise that no deer culling would take place at least until a count of the animals is made.

Although the council will meet to vote on culling next week, the last official count done in January 2014 found very few of the animals in the city area.

Some 46 of the animals in the south of the city were culled for a controversial tree-planting scheme.

Councillor Neil Cooney, Communities, Housing and Infrastructure Committee, wrote to campaigners; his email reads in part:

“Any other practical non-lethal measures will also be looked at… There will be no management until a population survey is completed: we must look at the issue of population densities”

Due to loss of greenbelt land, deer and other wildlife have been forced out of their habitats. One of the largest and most controversial projects sees land at Loirston Loch released for commercial development. Previous councils had decreed the land should never be built on. A large road-building project elsewhere in the city is also destroying habitat.

Campaigner Suzanne Kelly said:

“We welcome Neil Cooney’s comments, but are concerned that in Aberdeen ‘management’ automatically seems to mean killing animals. The author of the report before the Committee is also the author of the report that led to the culling of 46 roe deer on Tullos Hill for a tree planting scheme – on a former rubbish tip which the Government says is unlikely to support a large-scale tree planting.  

“The scheme was supposed to be ‘cost-neutral’; it has cost over £600,000. Over 80% of citizens opposed this according to STV, community councils objected – but still the city pressed ahead.

“As to these road accident statistics, we’ve asked for the raw data and are awaiting it. The last spreadsheet I saw was in April. This included accidents in Aberdeenshire, and incidents which were not involving collisions. Police Scotland had been requested to supply data; this request is overdue.

“There are non-lethal ways to curtail deer populations and help prevent road accidents; the city could do more. They seem to want to shoot first and not ask questions. However, when you look at how many road accidents we have, the involvement of deer pales into insignificance.

“The report insists the city must uphold the law on deer management. We look forward to the city showing the same enthusiasm for upholding the law on improving air pollution on our roads, which include some of the worst statistics in Scotland.

“The report’s author also claims the city wants to improve biodiversity; this is a bit risible in the face of its recent planning decisions, and the threat to turn the city’s Harbour area into an off-limits private industrial harbour. Still, as the city has agreed no killing at least until a proper count is done, we see this as a victory.”

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Jun 192015

Road verges are one of the most important, best loved and frequently viewed habitats in the country… So why are they still being destroyed? With thanks to Plantlife.

pyramidal orchid with 6s burnet blandford best compressed

Pyramidal orchid with six spot burnet moth in a typical ‘meadow’ habitat.

A new Plantlife study shows that Britain’s road verges are home to 703 species of wild plants, more than in any other part of our landscape, and 87 of them are either threatened with extinction or heading that way.

In addition, 88% of these wild plants provide nectar and pollen for bees and other insects, making road verges essential refuges for insect life; bird’s-foot trefoil alone is a food plant for 132 species of insect.

In addition, 21 of the 25 Nation’s Favourite Wildflowers grow on road verges.

From cowslips and bluebells in spring to swathes of cow parsley and ox-eye daisies in early summer, our verges are home to most of the 25 favourite wild flowers as voted for by the public. And with 30 million drivers in the UK, they’re the most frequently viewed habitat too, providing many people with their only regular daily contact with nature.

But in much of Britain road verges are still being needlessly cut down in full flower threatening the wildflowers and the wildlife that depend on them. Many councils have already started cutting verges – much too early in the year for flowers to be able set seed, and greatly reducing one of the most important food banks for our ailing bees and other pollinators.

Dr Trevor Dines, Plantlife’s Botanical Specialist, explains,

“Over 97% of meadows have been destroyed in England since the 1930s. In many areas, rural road verges are the last remaining stretches of natural habitat for our wildlife. Road safety is the absolute priority, but we know that verges can be managed better for wildlife whilst remaining safe for motorists. This means adopting some simple changes to management – like a delay in cutting to allow seed to be set – so that wildflowers can thrive.” 

Plantlife has produced new management guidelines and is urging the public to sign a petition asking local councils to adopt them. Some councils are leading the way.

Trials in Dorset, for example, are investigating how to combat the over-vigorous growth of grass on fertile verges (which is both detrimental to wildflowers and obscures driver sight-lines), by stripping turf, using semi-parasitic yellow rattle to stunt grass growth and even grazing verges with sheep.

Plantlife is helping to showcase the work of councils like Dorset to show others that it can be done. Our guidelines are being currently being applied to 11,700 km of verge covering 2,300 hectares of verges – that’s equivalent to 2.5 times the area of remaining upland hay meadow in the UK – and with the public’s support we can do even more.

Dr Dines adds,

“If we just give them a chance, wildflowers can return. Meadow crane’s-bill was once widespread in meadows – hence its name – but is now more commonly found on road verges. It spreads readily when cutting is delayed and it’s allowed to set seed. Maybe it’s time to change its name to ‘verge crane’s-bill'”

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Apr 032015

deer3picWith thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

A petition to examine issues surrounding Aberdeen’s Tullos Hill has gained sufficient public support for the city’s Petitions Committee to address the issues.

Campaigners were told today that they had exceeded the threshold of 250 signatures, and the city’s Petitions Committee will meet with the petitioners on 21 April.

Text of their petition can be found here http://committees.aberdeencity.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?Id=13 .

In May of 2011, campaigners wanted the deer spared and for Tullos Hill to be left as a meadow and the roe deer to be allowed to remain. The hill once had a field of dame’s violets, which a city official, Peter Leonard, dismissed as ‘garden escapees’. Campaigners argued that the flowers and the gorse were important habitat and should not have been removed.

The hill is a former industrial and domestic rubbish dumping ground with serious soil pollution issues. A ‘Tree for Every Citizen’ scheme was put up for public consultation, but it omitted there was a deer cull already planned for the tree planting. When the public found out about the cull, thousands signed petitions and several community councils objected as well.

STV reported that 80% of the city opposed the scheme. The convener of the Housing & Environment Committee, Liberal Democrat Aileen Malone, demanded that the public come up with £225,000 for fencing – or the deer would be shot. Animal welfare charities and organisations were alarmed at this unprecedented demand, and people were urged not to give into the demand.

Free of charge services were offered to show the city how to grow the trees using non-lethal methods – these were dismissed out of hand.    A spokesperson for the Scottish SPCA referred to the culling of the deer for the tree scheme as ‘abhorrent and absurd.’

The public were initially told the tree planting would be at no cost to them. However, a Freedom of Information request revealed that an expert C J Piper, was paid £72,212 for services to the tree-planting scheme. Other expenses include fencing, the cost of having the deer shot, and a previous failed planting on the same hill which saw the taxpayers returning £43,800 to Scottish Natural Heritage.

The campaigners want to know what all of the expenses are both historic and ongoing.

John Robins of Animal Concern said:

“Aberdeen City Council have all but wiped out a perfectly healthy herd of deer which had existed for generations on a piece of rough land which has never been suitable for anything else. Tullos Hill evolved into its own natural habitat and should have been valued and protected for what it was and not destroyed to fit in with the grandiose plans of petty politicians. It is extremely unlikely that any new woodland will survive on Tullos Hill. The Council should stop wasting public money and leave the area to nature – in this instance mother nature definitely knows best.”

Kelly, who has written several articles for Aberdeen Voice and a report, continued:

“People feel they were misled on several aspects of the scheme.  People do not know how much money is involved,  how safe or otherwise the soil on the hill is, and why more deer must be shot. 

“There may be very few deer left in the entire city according to a recent SNH count. We want to know how much tax money has gone on this scheme, we want no further culling, and we want the city to seek assurances from the SNH that we won’t see another £43,800 bill coming our way: the trees are covered by weeds in many places, no matter how many awards have been dished out.”



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Mar 142014

Can there be as few as three animals left on Tullos Hill, and if so, is that the end for these animals in our area?  Suzanne Kelly reports on recent developments.

roe-deerA herd of roe deer roamed for several decades in Aberdeen’s ‘Gramps’.

The herd, once estimated at over 70 animals (an estimate made by those who wanted the animals removed for a tree-planting scheme) was halved in a controversial covert cull.

Last month at least four deer were destroyed and their limbs found.

Police Scotland is investigating but the Scottish SPCA was not notified of these developments.

Local residents contacted Aberdeen Voice on two occasions concerning the welfare of the Aberdeen deer this year. In one instance, remains of four or five deer were found on Tullos Hill.

Walkers found police investigating the grisly find of deer limbs indicating someone or something had destroyed 4 animals. Meanwhile on Kincorth Hill, a walker reported finding a deer leg and mounds of a white powder to a city warden, who happened to be on the hill.

The warden related that skinned cat remains had been found. None of this information was relayed to the city or the police, despite the warden promising to do so. The warden apparently said he would inform the city; this appears not to have happened.

[Note – it was originally believed that the information was passed at the time to a ranger, but it was actually passed to a city warden.  Therefore the freedom of information request questions referred to a city ranger.  In any event, the warden should have shared the information with the city – SK]

Following Freedom of Information Requests to the City and Police Scotland, it emerged that the police chose not to pass this information on to the Scottish SPCA. No action appears to be being taken to ensure the welfare of any remaining wildlife, or to investigate the cat remains.

A Police Scotland spokesperson had the following response (questions/details posed by Aberdeen Voice are in bold):

1.  A severed deer’s leg was found on Monday 13 January 2014 by a dog walker on Kincorth Hill during the day. They managed to find a ranger, and reported the leg, and strange mounds of white powder they had also seen. The ranger told this person that a skinned cat was also found recently on the hill. There is a photo of a dog with the found leg.

2.  I have a second hand report that says on Monday 6th January 2014 (approximate date) police attended Tullos Hill where five deer had been killed. My source says that ‘deers’ legs were everywhere’. The police apparently told dog walkers that 5 deer had been killed.


a.    Are these reports accurate?

“No. 2 relates to an incident reported to Police regarding the remains of 4 deer in the Loirston Country Park. This is currently being investigated in order to establish if in fact a crime has occurred or not. This is the only Wildlife incident I am aware of in the area and no other incidents have been reported to Police Scotland.”

b.    How many animals and of what kind have been found dead recently on these hills?

“As far as Police Scotland is aware this is the only incident which has been reported to Police Scotland recently.”

c.    How, if known, were the animals killed?

“Only leg remains were found and so cause of death is unknown.” 

[Note:  If the legs were cleanly severed, then it was human involvement.  If it was torn, that is interesting, as the tree planting proponents insisted the deer had absolutely no ‘natural’ predators and therefore the city had to destroy them. Unless the police are alleging the animals died of illness or old age and the bodies mysteriously disappeared, it should be fairly possible to determine what took the legs off the animals.  SK]

d.    What is being done to ensure animal welfare in these areas? (at present I don’t believe there are any signs that prohibit poaching).

“At the moment I cannot confirm if any poaching has taken place (No.2). We have no other reference to animal welfare issues.”

e.    what agencies were made aware of this? Was the Scottish SPCA informed (it appears not – if not – why?)

“If poaching is reported, Police investigation will take place into the crime. Police Scotland would only contact SSPCA if an animal welfare issue was highlighted.”

[Note:  I would have thought that if someone or something is severing deer’s limbs, this might impact their welfare, and be worth at least a passing mention to the Scottish SPCA – SK]

Aberdeen City Council’s response is as follows (the same questions were asked):-

Concerning several reports received this week about animal remains on both Kincorth

Are these reports accurate?

“No. There has been no report to a Countryside Ranger that a severed deer leg had been found on Kincorth Hill on or around Monday 13 January. A City Warden did see a dog with what appeared to be a deer leg but this was not reported to the Police. 

“No Countryside Ranger was aware of any dead cat or piles of white powder being found. A member of the public did bring a cat pelt to the attention of a City Warden and this was reported to the Police by the City Warden. Any investigations into this are a Police matter. Regarding the 6 January incident on Tullos Hill, this is a Police matter as they attended the scene.”

How many animals and of what kind have been found dead recently on these hills?

“No other dead animals have been found recently on these hills or reported to Aberdeen City Council Countryside Ranger staff.”

How, if known, were the animals killed?

“Aberdeen City Council staff have not seen the reported remains in Question 1 so cannot comment on how they were killed. Information from the Police suggest that it would not be possible to tell how the deer were killed as only lower legs were found. Investigations into this are a Police matter.”

 What is being done to ensure animal welfare in these areas? (at present I don’t believe there are any signs that prohibit poaching).

“The deer population is being professionally managed to ensure that there are no animal welfare issues relating to the deer population. The sites are regularly patrolled by Aberdeen City Council staff. There is no requirement to display signs prohibiting poaching. Poaching is illegal on all land. As with most criminal activity, signs are not generally posted to inform visitors that these acts are prohibited.”

What agencies were made aware of this? Was the Scottish SPCA informed (it appears not – if not – why?)

“This would be a Police matter as the incident was reported to and dealt with by the Police.”

“ACC is unable to provide you with information on What agencies were made aware of this? Was the Scottish SPCA informed (it appears not – if not – why?) as it is not held by the Council. In order to comply with its obligations under the terms of Regulation 10(4)(a) – Information Not Held – of the EIRs, ACC hereby gives notice that this information is not held by it.

“ACC is required by Regulation 10(1)(b) of the EIRs to inform you as to why in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining this exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing this information to you. ACC is satisfied that it does not hold this information and considers that in all circumstances, the public interest in making the information available is outweighed by the public interest in maintaining ‘Information Not Held’.”

[Note:  if anyone can explain to me what the city means when it says ‘making the information available is outweighed by the public interest in maintaining ‘Information Not Held’ – please get in touch, for this makes no sense to me, sorry to say.  SK]

How many animal remains were found on either hill in 2014 to date, in 2013 and 2012?

“One dead roe deer was found on Kincorth Hill in 2013.  Occasional dead birds, mice and voles are seen each year due to natural causes or predation, no records kept of these.”

What is the estimated deer herd size now?

“Tullos Hill has recently been re-surveyed and there were three roe deer located on or adjacent to Tullos Hill on the day of the survey.”

Aberdeen Voice will be reporting further on Tullos Hill’s condition and related animal issues in the near future.

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Feb 142014

The killing of mammals is unacceptable to many people and the debate took a new turn last week with the shooting of Marius after a last supper of his favourite rye bread. By Duncan Harley.

Giraffe duncan harleyDenmark is not getting a great press these days. First there was the furore over the so called “Denmark dolphin slaughter” which filled social media with images of blood soaked seas and led to huge numbers of appalled and disgusted folk commenting on the shocking images before passing them on to others who in their turn also passed them on, often without either further investigation or question.

This week there is widespread indignation about the treatment of a giraffe called Marius who was shot before being fed to the lions in a Copenhagen zoo.

The story was flashed round the world via social media before being picked up by the mainstream media. Note the time frame here, social media first, then mainstream media. Citizen journalism often now leads the pack. The Arab Spring and the killing of Drummer Rigby are prime examples of the new news media.

The ultimate victim however may be truth itself as unverified news stories circle the globe.

The Guardian’s headline “Some rye bread – then a bullet in the head” was one of the more restrained mainstream Marius pieces and pointed out that the dissection of the animal following his last meal was just one of a series of such events held at the zoo. Seemingly the zoo’s programme of public dissection has in the past included snakes, zebras and goats.

Zoo scientific director Bengt Holst defended accusations of animal cruelty by saying “It is important that we explain to people why we do it.”  He continued “People are fascinated by it, it helps increase the knowledge about animals.”

Calls to resign and death threats followed the director’s no doubt well intentioned comments, leading some to wonder if sanity in zoo land could ever return.

The truth of the matter may be somewhat complex however.

In the case of the so called “Denmark dolphin slaughter”,  the Danes may be being unfairly vilified since the killings take place some 814 miles from the Danish capital of Copenhagen and in an automonous self governing island community situated in the Norwegian Sea midway between the UK, Iceland and Norway.

Furthermore, some sources suggest that the ‘dolphins’ in question may not actually be dolphins at all but a species of long finned pilot whale.

The hunt is known as the grindadráp and is a centuries old tradition carried out in the Faroe Islands, an island nation overwhelmingly dependent on what the sea can provide. Designed to produce a sustainable and annual harvest, the grindadráp is indeed gruesome however islanders are quick to point out that the hunt is not done for any commercial gain, with the meat being solely distributed amongst the local community.

A Faroese islander living in Aberdeen commented that the old and the poor receive most of this harvest.

“The Faroese are a very close community” she said

“we take very good care to ensure that everyone gets a share”

“Nothing is wasted, what is not used immediately is frozen for the winter season.”

With a population of just over 21,000 people the Faroe islanders claim that they rely on the sea harvest to supplement a meagre land based agricultural system. With an estimated 0.1% of the global population of pilot whales being killed each year the hunt is considered to be sustainable according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The morality of the hunt can of course be questioned, however the claims by the Faroese regarding their commitment to community and sustainability looks reasonably sound. It is a gruesome activity of course and the “Cove” like images of a blood red sea cause offence to many.

How to get to the zoo

How to get to the zoo

The islanders have claimed that they have strictly enforced laws designed to prevent unnecessary suffering during what they see as an annual harvest. The grindadráp seems to them acceptable, especially when contrasted with the daily slaughter of tens of thousands of cows, pigs, sheep and chickens in the rest of Europe.

As for Marius the giraffe, biologists routinely dissect frogs, rats, sharks, and cats in comparative anatomy classes to learn about animal anatomy.

Medical students are similarly trained and when you next visit a GP it may be useful to consider the fact that his or her care of your condition may depend entirely on a good understanding of the anatomy of the human body.

However, yet again, the morality can of course be questioned and the truth of the matter may be slightly different from the mainstream media portrayal.

The Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende wasted no time in pointing out the double standards implied in the criticism and even death threats made against the Copenhagen Zoo scientific director Bengt Holst. Pointing out that that the killing and consumption of millions of farm animals in the EEC each year went largely unchallenged amongst the meat eaters in Europe, the papers readers were quick to  comment that:

“Cows, pigs and chickens live their lives in hell  so that we can have cheap meat from the supermarket.”

Which roughly translated reads something like:

“Køer, grise og høns, som lever deres liv i Satans forgård i små bure og stalde med mavesår for at blive slagtet på samlebånd, så vi kan få billig kød fra supermarkedets containere.”

A Dane currently living in the UK commented that most consumers “think nothing of buying a dead chicken which has never seen light” and wonders why the press have focussed on children being able to watch the dissection.

“Surely it was their parents decision to bring them”, She said.

“We take animal welfare very seriously in Denmark and treat our farm animals very well. I don’t really see the difference between slaughtering cows and sheep for human consumption and slaughtering a giraffe for tiger consumption.”

To many, a zoo visit conjures up cosy childhood memories of cute monkeys and ever watchful meercats.

Perhaps though the reality of the local zoo being little more than a breeding establishment with an unromantic focus on scientific endeavour has come as a shock to many folk.

However, although zoo officials may not publicise the fact that the killing of animals is the price of conservation, animals including pygmy hippos, zebra and bison are regularly ‘put down’ as a consequence of breeding programmes. Poor Marius was but one victim of the human instinct to kill to protect a species.

It opens up a whole new debate really.

Perhaps we should thank the Danes for highlighting the issue.


Jyllands Park Zoo has today (13th February 2013)  announced that it too has a giraffe named Marius.

In an almost unprecedented PR disaster the Danish zoo announced:

““We can’t have two males and one female. Then there will be fights,” zoo keeper Janni Lojtved Poulsen told Danish news agency Ritzau. “If the breeding program coordinator decides that he should be put down, then that’s what we’ll do.””

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Sep 062013

pine1_leftWith thanks to Richard Bunting.

As Scotland’s Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse, formally launches a consultation on whether Scotland should have a National Tree, the conservation charity Trees for Life has welcomed growing calls for the Scottish Government and Parliament to adopt the Scots pine.

The consultation on Scotland’s National Tree, requested by the Scottish Government, has been launched by Forestry Commission Scotland in Edinburgh.

Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life’s Executive Director, said:

“The growing campaign for the Scots pine to be proclaimed Scotland’s National Tree is inspiring. The Scots pine is one of the world’s most beautiful trees, a powerful symbol of Scotland and a keystone species of the Caledonian Forest, which in turn is one of the country’s greatest national treasures.

“Declaring this remarkable and important species as our national tree in 2013, the year of Natural Scotland, would send a much-needed signal of support for Scotland’s beleaguered forests, and would boost the development of a uniquely Scottish national identity. The Scots pine’s natural range in the UK distinguishes Scotland from the rest of the country.”

Over 70 countries around the world, from Canada to Denmark to South Africa, have National Trees that provide important symbols for their national identities.

The Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) is the largest and longest-lived tree in the CaledonianForest, and forms a ‘backbone’ in the forest ecosystem on which many other species depend.

The tree provides a home for special wildlife, including red squirrels, capercaillie, crossbills and crested tits. It offers ideal nesting sites for ospreys, shelter for deer and pine martens, and shade for twinflower, one-flowered wintergreen and blaeberries. The richly textured bark of a pine is a fantastic habitat for lichens, mosses and insects.

With increasing concerns about climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss, the need for concerted action to conserve and regenerate Scotland’s native woodlands is more important than ever before.

Today, only a fraction of the former CaledonianForest survives, with its native pinewoods reduced to 35 isolated remnants. However, Trees for Life is restoring the forest to a wilderness region of 1,000 square miles in the Highlands to the west of Loch Ness and Inverness.

The bid to address Scotland’s current lack of an official tree was begun by campaigner and Trees for Life supporter Alex Hamilton. MSPs began the process of potentially designating the Scots pine as one of Scotland’s official national symbols on the 8th January this year, when the Public Petitions Committee heard Mr Hamilton’s request that the Scottish Parliament urge the Scottish Government to proclaim the Scots pine as the National Tree of Scotland.

Alan Watson Featherstone accompanied Alex Hamilton at that committee meeting, adding Trees for Life’s support for the proposal.

Trees for Life is Scotland’s leading conservation volunteering charity. For details, see www.treesforlife.org.uk or call 0845 458 3505.


Scots pine, the only tree named after Scotland, is the most widely distributed conifer in the world, with a natural range that stretches from beyond the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia to southern Spain and from western Scotland to the Okhotsk Sea in eastern Siberia. Despite this wide distribution, the Scots pine forests in Scotland are unique and distinct from those elsewhere because of the absence of any other native conifers.

In good situations in mainland Europe, the Scots pine can grow to 120 feet in height. In most of the pinewood remnants in Scotland today, the largest trees are about 65 feet tall, with exceptional trees recorded up to 90 feet high. Maximum girth at breast height is usually up to 8 feet, although some trees up to 12 feet in girth have been recorded.

Scots pine usually lives to an age of 250-300 years in Scotland, although a tree in one of the western pinewood remnants was discovered to be over 520 years old.

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Apr 262013

By Bob Smith.

A celebration o Earth Day
Wis jist held iss wikk
Tae try an save oor planet
Fit is a wee bit sick
Pollution an lan destruction
Is jist twa things we fear
Noo sum fowk are interested
Ithers think it aa sma beer
We’ve aa bin telt tae think
Progress ’tis man’s desire
Bit fit if progress isna gweed
An thingies git richt dire
The earth is far we aa live
The sustainer o aa life forms
Bit mair an mair we hear o
Massive floods an affa storms
Since the industrial revolution
Things hiv geen doonhill
The stairt o a great migration
Fae the country tae woollen mill
Toons sprung up aa ower the place
Industrialisation it wis the king
Spewin oot fae big lums
Pollution it wid bring
“Progress wis eence aaricht
It’s jist geen on ower lang”
Ogden Nash wrote the wirds
The mannie wisna wrang
Foo tae help oor planet
Fowk are aye askin iss
The answer is fair simple
The solution hard tae miss
First stop aa the pollution
Fae cars, planes an trucks
Nae usin up Earth’s resources
So’s fowk can mak faist bucks
Nae shite on the pavements
Nae litter near the roads
Nae buggerin up the habitats
O wild flooers an the toads
Pit a stop tae intensive fairmin
Usin neo-nicotinoids an pesticides
So the bees an ither insects
Still flee aboot oor countrysides
So tae celebrate beyond Earth Day
The human race his far tae ging
Tae save the flora an animals
An ither thingies fit nature brings

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”2013
Images by Richard Duthie

Dec 102012

With thanks to Peter Thomson

The River Don is celebrated in a new book from the Woodside Writers Group. With support from the SURF (Sustainable Urban Fringes) Aberdeen project, The Don: from Source to Sea is now available.
An anthology of poems and prose in English and Doric, Aberdeen Voice brings you the first in a short series of extracts.

Gates Shut

Gates shut, canna go in
Nae job
It floated doon i Donny
Sic a shock
Employed the day, nae the morn
Fit wye?
Dinna ken mate, letter on the way, explain it aa
Union ill sort it oot
Nae made redundant, jist unemployed.
Sorry chaps, mill’s gid bust
Bit niver mind, the best o luck.
Beater hoose empty
nae manly chat, joke or jibes
cups o coffee or fags or moanin aboot the wife
spenin a yer sillar.
Idle musty levers, dusty buttons
Empty hollow reels, nae birling or
whirling wi reams o paper.
Pied ma dues, now beggin bowl in haun,
state benefits
Apply for jobs ye say?
Hid een the ither day, nae the attitude sorry mate
nae yer fault
bit sad an doon in i dumps
Thirty five years makin paper
seems unfair, nae just
niver mind, I’ll get on wi life…
as fit I must.

May Ritchie

The Don: from Source to Sea is available from WH Smith and Books ‘n’ Beans for £5.00, and also from Mark Lovie at the Woodside Fountain Centre: tel: 01224 524926, email: mark@fersands.org

Twenty per cent of any profits from the book will go towards a Don educational project; the rest will help to fund future Woodside Writers Group projects.

The idea of a book came up when the Woodside Writers Group realised the river appeared in much of their writing, and further material was gathered from as far afield as Alford.

The Don corridor has a great history and the SURF Aberdeen project aims to bring communities, organisations and ideas together to initiate a renewed focus and collaborative management to this area at a time of significant change.


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