Golden eagle voted 'Scotland's favourite' wild animal

golden eagle Golden eagles are still threatened by illegal persecution in some areas of Scotland

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The golden eagle has topped the vote in a campaign to find Scotland's favourite wild animal.

The bird of prey was competing against the red deer, red squirrel, harbour seal and otter.

The campaign was run jointly by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and VisitScotland as part of the Year of Natural Scotland 2013 celebrations.

Thousands of votes were recorded online following the campaign launch in spring this year. Voting closed on Thursday.

Start Quote

The Big 5 campaign has given us a fantastic opportunity to promote even the most remote areas of our wonderful country”

End Quote Mike Cantlay VisitScotland

The golden eagle received 4,773 of the 12,417 votes cast. The red squirrel was second with 2,523, the red deer 1,819, otter 1,794 and harbour seal 725.

Other animals received 783 votes, with the top three being wildcat, pine marten and puffin.

Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: "While we can be enormously proud of all our native wildlife, it is fitting that the magnificent golden eagle has topped this poll of Scotland's Big 5 species.

"At present Scotland is home to all of the UK's breeding pairs of golden eagles, and the species has done well to recover after almost being wiped out in the last two centuries.

"However, recent incidents have shown that the golden eagle is still threatened by illegal persecution in some areas. We have a responsibility to protect this wonderful bird so that future generations can continue to enjoy its presence in our skies."

Scotland's Big 5 were selected because they were all high profile species, widely associated with Scotland, and with a broad geographical spread.

'Rarer species'

Ian Jardine, SNH chief executive, said: "The response to the campaign has been brilliant. Thousands of people have voted for their favourite from Scotland's Big 5 list.

"There have been several alternative lists put forward for seabirds, game animals, trees and plants, and support for rarer species like the pine marten and wildcat.

Red squirrel The red squirrel was voted second favourite in the competition

"It has got people thinking about and talking about wildlife, and showing how much affection and pride people have, not just for the five species on the list, but for Scottish wildlife generally."

Through the partnership with SNH, VisitScotland promoted the campaign to millions of potential visitors. The campaign explained where best to see the animals in their natural environments.

This saw all of Scotland's Big 5 championed through a series of billboard advertisements in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh and extensive radio and online advertising.

Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, added: "We've been absolutely delighted with the response that Scotland's Big 5 campaign has received, and it has been a cornerstone of our celebrations for the Year of Natural Scotland 2013.

"One of the key pillars of the year was to get as many people here at home out seeing parts of Scotland that they may not have been to before, and the Big 5 campaign has given us a fantastic opportunity to promote even the most remote areas of our wonderful country."

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