Mull's economy soars on wings of white-tailed eagles

image captionWildlife tourism supports thousands of jobs in Scotland

The island of Mull has benefited by £5m annually from the programme to re-introduce the white-tailed eagle.

A study by the Progressive Partnership, commissioned by the RSPB, found that tourism generated by the birds supports the equivalent of 110 full-time jobs.

The calculations were based on a survey of more than 1,200 people who visited the island in 2010.

Almost a quarter of them said the eagles were an important factor in them choosing Mull as a destination.

The Scottish government has estimated that wildlife tourism is now worth £276m each year to the country's economy, supporting 2,763 jobs in the sector.

Summer visitors

Minister for Enterprise and Tourism Fergus Ewing said: "I am encouraged by the number of people coming to see these magnificent birds, especially in Mull, and all the hard work being carried out by the RSPB as well as all those who have a role to play in protecting the species."

RSPB Scotland has cited the findings as a strong argument for investing further in nature conservation projects.

image captionA quarter of visitors to Mull were interested in wildlife

Its Mull officer Dave Sexton said: "This survey backs up previous studies looking at just how much wildlife tourism contributes to the Scottish economy.

"And of course these figures say nothing about the additional benefits these projects can bring to our health and wellbeing."

According to VisitScotland, white-tailed eagles account for an estimated 50% of all inquiries at its information centre in Craignure during the summer months on Mull.

Mike Cantlay, the chairman of VisitScotland, said: "The eagles have really captured the imagination of visitors and are a fantastic part of the island's stunning wildlife and rich natural heritage.

"Any visitor who is privileged enough to experience seeing them will undoubtedly have a memorable and unique holiday."

Mull Eagle Watch is run by a partnership of Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Mull and Iona Community Trust, Strathclyde Police and RSPB Scotland.

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