Kailzie Local Area Wildlife Education and Discover (KLAWED) has a new project leader: Rachel McAleese in charge of its project to attract more people to enjoy the area’s wildlife.
Rachel, a former ranger who took up her post last week, said: “I am really excited to be part of the KLAWED project and to be working in such a fantastic and beautiful area.”
The Friends of Kailzie Wildlife have appointed her to the Peeblesshire project, funded by Leader and Scottish Natural Heritage.
Rachel said: “It looks to encourage people to experience the wildlife of the Borders through viewing and workshops.”
She continued: “We are trying to make wildlife viewing more accessible by using state-of-the-art technology and cameras in our viewing centre. I am hoping to continue this all year round, even when our popular ospreys are not here, finding more species and areas to focus our cameras on.”
She also plans to run workshops on using cameras, still and movie “so people can pick up new skills while experiencing wildlife in a more personal way,” she said.
Now living in Galashiels, Rachel, 28, grew up in Selkirk and has an honours degree in environmental science from Stirling University. She is in the final stages of a part-time master’s degree in conservation and management of protected areas at Edinburgh Napier University.
She says she has no idea where her enthusiasm for wildlife came from. She said: “I grew up in a town and no-one in my family had a particular interest in the outdoors and we didn’t have a family pet. I just remember that from a young age I had a fascination with badgers.
“When I was seven or eight, my friend and her father took me badger-watching one night and after catching a few glimpses of badgers playing outside a sett that was me hooked.”
Rachel comes to the KLAWED project after two seasons as a countryside ranger at Bowhill while studying for her masters. She said: “I started volunteering with the Tweed Valley Ospreys project last summer and the ospreys really pulled me in. It was amazing to discover that the area we live in could be home to such rare and beautiful birds. And it was great to meet so many other volunteers who shared my passion for wildlife. Through volunteering here I became aware of the KLAWED project and it just seemed like such a fresh and exciting idea and something I really wanted to be part of.”
Asked what she hoped to achieve in her new role she said: “To show people that we have fantastic wildlife right here on our doorstep. I want to get as many people as possible to come and experience the wildlife of the Borders and realise that they don’t need to travel far to see exciting species.”
What is different about Kailzie and the KLAWED project is that it is working with modern technology instead of against it she says.
“We have a state-of-the-art wildlife viewing centre equipped with screens showing live scenes of wildlife in and around the Kailzie estate. Not everyone wants to plunge in to the depths of a forest, crouch waiting in the wet grass, or sit eating soggy sandwiches with a pair of binoculars in their car. We bring the wildlife action to the public, and hopefully we encourage people to go out and see what they can find.
“Kailzie is made up of a variety of habitat types and is teeming with lots of species, in particular species that many people will have never encountered before such as osprey, red squirrel, nuthatches and otters.”
Asked to name someone she admires in the conservation world, Rachel said: “I really admire the naturalist and TV presenter Mark Carwardine. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind and sometimes even goes against a lot of the scientific community by showing genuine compassion for wildlife. I also loved the TV series he made with Stephen Fry, Last Chance to See, as they injected humour into their films, something that people seem to think conservationists lack!”