Hebrides Today

News from the Western Isles

Archive for March, 2009

International actions agreed to save threatened goose

Posted by Editor On March - 2 - 2009

Action to aid the survival of the Greenland White-fronted Goose has been agreed following an international summit on Islay this week.


Over fifty experts from the countries that are home to the declining goose population gathered to identify causes affecting its welfare, and to propose new measures across all states to improve its prospects.


Since peak numbers of 35,600 recorded in 1999, numbers have tumbled by nearly a third to the most recent count in spring 2008 which estimated the Greenland White-front population at 23,200. 


Led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), in partnership with the Greenland White-fronted Goose Study, the three day conference and workshop has now produced a long term commitment from the various agencies and conservation bodies involved. SNH Director of Policy and Advice Professor Colin Galbraith said: "The last few days of workshops, field visits, discussions and presentations have confirmed the serious plight of the global population of Greenland White-fronted geese.


"The discussions have highlighted the key importance of managing the wintering grounds for the species in Scotland, and the significance of changes happening in the nesting areas in Greenland due to climate and possible competition with other species.


"The good news from Islay is that we have been able to combine all this international knowledge, which was reviewed at the workshop, to produce a draft framework agreement and a positive way forward. This international collaboration promises targeted and enhanced conservation work in each country designed to mitigate the threats we have identified here. I am optimistic that we can now develop work between the countries involved to support the species through these current pressures."


The conference concluded that there were the following significant causes of decline:


Since 1999 too few birds have been hatched each year to balance annual mortality


Excessive snowfall during the period when geese are arriving in the Greenland nesting grounds in recent years and/or:


Competition with a rapidly expanding Canada goose population on Greenland which migrate from North America

On the lookout for endangered species in Syria

Posted by Editor On March - 2 - 2009

Conservationists from Scotland are heading out to Syria tomorrow (March 3) on a six-week trip to search for the critically endangered Sociable Lapwing and Bald Ibis.


The four-strong RSPB team, including Martin Scott from the Isle of Lewis, will be swapping a damp Scottish March to search for the Lapwing-like species in the dry arid steppes of Syria.


The team hope to promote conservation through direct contact with local people and government officials.


Target species include Sociable Lapwing, a species that has declined sharply in recent years and breeds in Kazakhstan before migrating south in winter to the Sudan. Recently satellite tracking of this species has shown that the northern Syrian steppes are a critical stop-over area for these migrating birds and it is hoped that the Scottish team will be able to locate groups in the north eastern deserts.


Syria is also crucial for the fabled Bald Ibis. Only two pairs are known from the Middle East, nesting in Syria, and these birds too have been satellite tagged. It is thought that they will return to their nesting ledges in early March.


Martin Scott, RSPB Scotland Western Isles Officer said: "All four of us are very excited. Syria looks to have some breathtaking habitats, from the lush Euphrates Valley to the dry steppes and stony deserts of the north.


"We hope to see lots of amazing birds, but more importantly pass on our knowledge and expertise to a nation that hosts some critical areas for wildlife.  Of course, escaping the North of Scotland for six weeks at this time of year has certain appeal too!"



"This is a key international project. Work has been undertaken in Kazakhstan, Sudan and India on Sociable Lapwings, now it is Syria's turn to be in the limelight.


 "It is a vast country, but not enough is known about its stunning birdlife. From correspondence, the Syrians are clearly passionate about their wealth of wildlife, and we hope to help them in any way we can. Being able to survey in such a country is a real privilege."



Isles' cancer treatment service returns

Posted by Editor On March - 1 - 2009


A chemotherapy service is to be re-introduced at the Uist and Barra Hospital - the service had been axed in 2002.


The move comes hot on the heels of a series of public meetings which were held to find out how healthcare in the region could be improved.


Patients previously had to travel to Stornoway, Inverness or Glasgow for the treatment and it is expected that the new service will help around a dozen patients a year.


Macmillan lead cancer nurse Gill Chadwick said: “We will be able to provide this service one day a week in Uist and Barra Hospital, depending on the number of suitable patients.


“There is an identified room in the hospital for day-case chemotherapy administration, and the development is likely to benefit about 12 people a year from the Uists and Barra.”


Two specialist nurses have been identified to provide the chemotherapy. The Macmillan Nurses on Benbecula will provide the essential checks with the chemo-nurse prior to administration.


Ms Chadwick said: “In practical terms, the new service means that patients will have their chemotherapy prescribed by their oncologist, then the drugs will be ordered by the pharmacy department at the Western Isles Hospital and delivered to Uist and Barra Hospital.


“When the drugs need to be kept refrigerated, they will be stored in a dedicated chemotherapy drug fridge, which was bought from a donation by the local Eaval Club, for which we are extremely grateful.”


Essential pre-treatment blood tests will be carried out locally and analysed at the Western Isles Hospital before the go-ahead for a cycle of treatment is given.


But, because some drugs have a very short shelf-life, which will prevent their use on Benbecula due to delivery times, patients that need them will have to travel to other cancer treatment centres.


Health board chief executive Gordon Jamieson also said: “We are always aiming to improve the services we offer patients, and the reintroduction of chemotherapy services in Uist and Barra Hospital improves access for patients, and means less travelling for treatment.”


Support for national park initiative

Posted by Editor On March - 1 - 2009

Conservation charity The John Muir Trust has welcomed the decision by the people of Harris to pursue National Park status and has pledged its support to Western Isles residents in achieving such recognition for the region.


Mick Blunt, area manager for the Western Isles, said in a statement: "This has been a remarkable grass roots initiative and marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of National Parks in Scotland.


"For the first time a community has taken the initiative rather than the government deciding which area deserves greater protection."


After a year-long study into the pros and cons the status might bring, residents voted overwhelmingly in favour of seeking National Park designation from the Scottish Government.


Mr Blunt added: "The careful, impartial and balanced way the whole process has been handled by the people of Harris - including the North Harris Trust -has been an object lesson in how community consultation should be done.


"Government agencies, local authorities and organisations working is the Highlands and Islands could learn much about working with communities by studying the approach taken in Harris."


Scotland currently has two national parks Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, created in 2002, and the Cairngorms National Park, created in 2003.