Mammals are one of the most familiar groups of wildlife to many people. And although many are amongst the largest wildlife we are likely to encounter they are surprisingly elusive and knowledge about the distribution of different species in Dumfries and Galloway is patchy. As a result, a working group of the Local Biodiversity Action Plan recognised an opportunity to promote greater public involvement in gathering information about their distribution in the region. A successful application to the Biodiversity Action Grants scheme by the Biodiversity Officer at Dumfries and Galloway Council saw the launch of the Mammal Guardians project in late 2005, concluding in 2006.
The project provided a series of free training courses to teach volunteers how to identify and record a range of different mammal species. Top wildlife experts from organisations around the country, including the Bat Conservation Trust, the Sea Watch Foundation and the Environment Agency, visited the region to train local people to become mammal detectives. Five events were held, two giving a general introduction to mammals, with further courses on river mammals, bats and cetaceans (whales and dolphins). Each event was co-ordinated by the Dumfries and Galloway Environmental Resources Centre, which also computerised the subsequent mammal records submitted by participants. As well as educating adults, the project also reached out to children. DGERC staff visited five local primary schools, helping to educate over 100 pupils about mammals and their conservation.
Eighty two people attended courses, with a further 40 people who couldn’t attend expressing an interest in future events. Since the first course started, over 1500 records of mammals have been received, greatly increasing the number of valuable up to date records for many species. Some, such as the Weasel and Stoat, are difficult to see and are undoubtedly much more widespread in the region than our distribution maps currently show, though the records from Mammal Guardians participants have added numerous recent sightings to our database.
SUP is registered in Scotland as a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. Registered address: The Southern Uplands Partnership, Studio 2, Lindean Mill, Galashiels, TD1 3PE. Company No. SC200827 / Charity No. SCO29475