Tayside and Central Scotland

'Priceless' trees stolen from Kinnoull Woodland Park

Seeds were collected from the tree's native habitat Image copyright Forest Enterprise Scotland

Thieves have stolen five "extremely rare" Serbian trees from woodland near Perth.

Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES) said the picea omorika trees had no commercial value, but were a "priceless component" of a conservation project.

Genetic material from the trees was being used in an international programme to conserve conifers.

The thieves took the trees from Kinnoull Woodland Park last week. Police Scotland are investigating.

FES said the trees were part of Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust's work with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to help conserve conifer species at risk of extinction in their native habitat.

The trust's Tom Christian said: "The climate and landscape of Perthshire are ideal for growing conifers and the area provides a very important safe haven for rare and endangered species from around the world.

"Each Conifer Conservation Programme tree is grown from seed that has been specially collected from its native habitat.

"Each tree represents years of work organising expeditions, processing the collected seeds, growing them on and then planting them in Perthshire."

'Pointless theft'

Mr Christian said the trees were "irreplaceable" as there was no way to recover the missing genetic material.

Robin Lofthouse, the FES forester who looks after Kinnoull Hill, said: "At a time when biodiversity around the world is increasingly under pressure, projects such as this play an invaluable part in conserving genetic material.

"This pointless theft is extremely frustrating not just because of the loss but because the trees are likely to have been killed. The thief had tried to dig them up but left most of the roots in the ground."

Mr Lofthouse said the FES were now considering the installation of wildlife cameras to protect other trees in the woods.

Anyone with information about the theft is urged to contact Police Scotland or a local FES office.

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