Orkney Native WildLIFE - Safeguarding Orkney’s native wildlife from invasive non-native stoats

LIFE17 NAT/UK/000557

Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version  

Contact details:

Contact person: Nick Folkard
Tel: 441767693207
Email: nick.folkard@rspb.org.uk

Project description:


The Orkney Islands are naturally free of terrestrial mammalian predators, which has allowed many bird species to flourish. However, in 2010, the non-native European stoat Mustela erminea was sighted on Orkney Mainland and has now spread to two other islands. In this largely treeless landscape, most birds areground-nesting and therefore exposed to the threat of predation by introduced mammals. The impacts of the introduced non-native stoat on Orkneys native wildlife are therefore predicted to be severe, and could lead to dramatic declines in populations of the species listed in the Birds Directive on the Orkney Islands.


The Orkney Native WildLIFE project aims to eradicate the introduced non-native stoat Mustela erminea from the Orkney Islands by 2023. This will benefit the archipelagos native wildlife, and protect its considerable cultural and socio-economic value. Project actions will safeguard biodiversity in Orkneys Natura 2000 sites (13 SPAs and 6 SACs).

Specific objectives are to:

  • Develop new best practice standards for eradicating stoat, and disseminate them to ensure replicability elsewhere within the EU;
  • Protect the current (and future) stoat-free islands by developing and implementing stoat biosecurity measures across the entire archipelago and, where relevant, on mainland Scotland, by 2021;
  • Monitor the impact of stoat eradication on populations of species, including short-eared owl (Asio flammeus), hen harrier (Circus cyaneus), key wader species such as the Eurasian curlew (Numenius arquata), and the Orkney vole (Microtus arvalis orcadensis); and
  • Assess local population-level responses to a recent introduction, and subsequent removal, of an apex predator.
  • The project makes a major contribution to the implementation of the Birds Directives, as well as the Habitats Directive through beneficial impacts on non-avian species and the Orkney ecosystem. It also contributes to the Biodiversity Strategy (Target 5) and the Regulation on Invasive Alien Species.

    Expected results:

  • The safeguarding of the long-term sustainability of nationally and internationally important populations of breeding waders, raptors, corncrake and seabirds in a stoat-free Orkney archipelago;
  • The removal of stoats from their entire introduced range across the Orkney Mainland and connected islands of Burray and South Ronaldsay, significantly advancing the RSPBs capacity, knowledge and experience at the European level to carry out large-scale and technically-challenging invasive species eradications;
  • A new analytical approach which can be applied elsewhere to inform eradication management strategies;
  • At least five UK-based conservation professionals develop skills and expertise in invasive species eradication and biosecurity through the project, with many more having the opportunity to gain experience in this field;
  • Newly developed UK and European best practice standards and operational expertise in mustelid biosecurity, by implementing innovative solutions across the Orkney archipelago to ensure prevention and early detection of, and rapid response to, any stoat incursions;
  • A biosecurity strategy for the Orkney archipelago based on an extensive stakeholder consultation process;
  • Community-led biosecurity plans on 10 inhabited islands, and stoat surveillance networks put in place in key areas on these islands; and
  • An improved understanding of ecosystem recovery following the removal of an apex predator to advance the science of invasion ecology, with important practical implications for the planning and delivery of future island restoration projects.



Environmental issues addressed:


Biodiversity issues - Invasive species


island‚  early warning system‚  standard‚  monitoring

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Regulation 1143/2014 - Prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien ...
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 ...

Natura 2000 sites

SPA UK9001131 Pentland Firth Islands
SPA UK9002101 West Westray
SPA UK9002111 Papa Westray (North Hill and Holm)
SPA UK9002121 Marwick Head
SPA UK9002141 Hoy
SPA UK9002151 Copinsay
SPA UK9002181 Sule Skerry and Sule Stack
SPA UK9002311 Orkney Mainland Moors
SPA UK9002331 East Sanday Coast
SPA UK9002371 Rousay
SPA UK9002381 Auskerry
SPA UK9002431 Calf of Eday
SPA UK9002891 Switha
SCI ES1140003 A Ramallosa
SCI UK0012791 Hoy
SCI UK0013589 Stromness Heaths and Coast
SCI UK0014749 Loch of Stenness
SCI UK0017096 Faray and Holm of Faray
SCI UK0030069 Sanday
SCI UK0030193 Loch of Isbister



Coordinator The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is the largest wildlife conservation NGO in Europe. It manages more than 200 nature reserves throughout the UK, carries out a wide variety of research, advisory, education and advocacy work, and has a major international programme.


Project reference LIFE17 NAT/UK/000557
Duration 01-AUG-2018 to 31-DEC -2023
Total budget 7,621,781.00 €
EU contribution 3,295,746.00 €
Project location Scotland(United Kingdom)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version