An 18,500-acre estate in Perthshire is set to be the home of a 100-year rewilding project managed by Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the organisation has announced.  

The Trust has secured the lease for Dalnacardoch Estate, which sits entirely within the Cairngorms National Park, halfway between Blair Atholl and Dalwhinnie.  

This will be Durrell’s first project in Scotland. 

The team has a long-term vision to revive the estate by applying its proven techniques to restoring habitats and ecological processes, as well as recovering iconic missing species such as the capercaillie, which is currently facing extinction in Scotland.   

 Durrell’s scientific approach combines hands-on species management with habitat restoration while working alongside local communities and training conservationists.   

 Significant ecological audits of the site, to establish the geography, species and habitats, are already taking place. These surveys will be ongoing and continue to inform the long-term strategic vision for rewilding the estate in line with the interests of the wider community and the requirements of being in a national park.  

Durrell’s CEO, Dr Lesley Dickie, said: “This is a transformational moment in the Durrell story. The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries on Earth with a multitude of diminished species and missing ecological functions. We are proud to be a British charity and we have been looking for a landscape-scale restoration project in the UK for several years.  

“Leasing the Dalnacardoch estate offers an incredible opportunity to demonstrate our approach to conservation and transition this estate to a nature-positive landscape that will benefit both local people and wildlife.”

Grant Moir, Chief Executive of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: “We’re delighted to be working with the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust on the long-term restoration of Dalnacardoch Estate. This collaboration will be vital in helping achieve our National Park Partnership Plan commitments, particularly around ecological restoration, net zero, woodland expansion, peatland restoration, and green skills and training.   

  “It’s also encouraging that Durrell plans to work so closely with neighbouring landowners and with the local community, developing a lasting vision that reflects the unique environmental and cultural heritage of the area.”  

 Professor Carl Jones MBE, Durrell’s Chief Scientist, said: “Durrell is excited to be working on a major restoration project in Britain, bringing six decades of experience in saving species from extinction and rebuilding ecosystems.  In a world where we are seeing major environmental changes and the loss of wildlife, we passionately believe we can address these challenges and make the world a better place. We look forward to restoring the plant and animal communities of Dalnacardoch so that the glens and moors are vibrant with bird song and pulsing with life.”   

 The land was bought earlier this year by a family foundation with charitable aims, specifically with the intent to lease it to Durrell for a rewilding project. 

Durrell’s intention is to have a managed transition away from Dalnacardoch’s historic use as a sporting estate. Instead moving towards a diversified range of activities that will provide economic, social and environmental benefits. 

Image credit: Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust