An 18,500-acre estate in Perthshire is the new home of an ambitious 100-year rewilding project.
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, founded by conservationist and writer Gerald Durell, has secured the lease for Dalnacardoch Estate.
The estate, which sits within the Cairngorms National Park, halfway between Blair Atholl and Dalwhinnie, is the charity’s first project in Scotland.
Durrell has a long-term vision to revive the estate by using proven techniques to restore habitats and ecological processes, as well as recovering iconic missing species such as the capercaillie, which is currently facing extinction in Scotland.
The Trust’s scientific approach combines hands-on species management with habitat restoration while working alongside local communities and training conservationists.
Significant ecological audits to establish geography, species and habitats are already underway. These surveys will be ongoing and inform the long-term strategic vision for rewilding the estate in line with the interests of the wider community and the requirements of its location in a national park.
Durrell’s CEO, Dr Lesley Dickie, said: “This is a transformational moment in the Durrell story. The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries on Earth with a multitude of diminished species and missing ecological functions. We are proud to be a British charity and we have been looking for a landscape-scale restoration project in the UK for several years.
“Leasing the Dalnacardoch estate offers an incredible opportunity to demonstrate our approach to conservation and transition this estate to a nature-positive landscape that will benefit both local people and wildlife.”
Durrell intends to manage the transition away from Dalnacardoch’s historic use as a sporting estate, towards a diversified range of activities that will provide economic, social and environmental benefits.
The team’s immediate focus is on engaging with neighbouring estates and potential partners.
Grant Moir, Chief Executive of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: “We’re delighted to be working with the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust on the long-term restoration of Dalnacardoch Estate. This collaboration will be vital in helping achieve our National Park Partnership Plan commitments, particularly around ecological restoration, net zero, woodland expansion, peatland restoration, and green skills and training.
“It’s also encouraging that Durrell plans to work so closely with neighbouring landowners and with the local community, developing a lasting vision that reflects the unique environmental and cultural heritage of the area.”
Professor Carl Jones MBE, Durrell’s Chief Scientist, said: “Durrell is excited to be working on a major restoration project in Britain, bringing our six decades of experience in saving species from extinction and rebuilding ecosystems. In a world where we are seeing major environmental changes and the loss of wildlife, we passionately believe we can address these challenges and make the world a better place. We look forward to restoring the plant and animal communities of Dalnacardoch so that the glens and moors are vibrant with bird song and pulsing with life.”
The land was bought earlier this year by a family foundation with charitable aims, specifically with the intent to lease it to Durrell for a rewilding project.