The Trust is using a herd of Shetland cattle at one of its Edinburgh reserves to tackle the decline of species-rich grasslands.
As part of Save Our Magnificent Meadows, a project led by Plantlife and funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, these cattle will graze on the site known as Murder Acre near Arthur's Seat to restore the former meadow and increase the site's biodiversity.
Meadows and pastures rich in wild flowers such as Eyebright, Devil’s-bit Scabius and Lesser Butterfly Orchids have declined disastrously in recent decades in Scotland. The latest figures estimate only around 10,000 ha of semi-natural grasslands remain – 0.14% of the country’s total land mass. More are being lost each year through neglect, conversion to other land use or development. Farmers and landowners are crucial in protecting the remaining precious spaces, and reversing the trend of loss by making more.
Reserves Manager South East Scotland, Julian Warman, said: “After over 700 hours of volunteer time spent over the last year removing scrub and preparing the site, we now have Shetland cattle grazing on the Historic Scotland site known as Murder Acre.
“These cattle are part of the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Flying Flock – our rare breed sheep and cattle used to maintain wildlife reserves so wildflowers can flourish.
“Each type of stock create different conditions for wildlife in this case, we have chosen Shetland cattle. The Trust's vast experience of conservation grazing enables the right stock and the right stocking density to be chosen.”