Highland bird of prey deaths 'may damage tourism'
The deaths of 19 birds of prey in the Highlands could damage Scotland's appeal as a wildlife tourism destination, according to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
The dead raptors have all been found dead in a small area of Ross-shire since last month.
Tests have confirmed 12 of the 19 birds were poisoned.
SNH chairman Ian Ross described the deaths as "shocking, grim and distressing".
The killings threatened Scotland's appeal as a wildlife tourism destination, he added.
Nature-based tourism is said to be worth £1.4bn a year to the Scottish economy.'Magnificent birds'
Mr Ross said: "This case is the subject of an ongoing police investigation.
"But I would like to state that we in SNH condemn any form of wildlife crime and the growing catalogue of suspected cases is shocking, grim and distressing.
"It's clear that acts like this detract from that value and diminish Scotland's appeal as a major wildlife tourism destination.
"They can also damage the local economy as many locals and visitors are keen to see these magnificent birds in the wider countryside. And, of course, it causes an appalling level of natural heritage and wildlife damage."
A protest over the deaths of the 14 red kites and five buzzards is to be held in Inverness city centre from 14:00 on Saturday.
RSPB Scotland said it would be a "dignified" demonstration to show public concern about the incidents.