SCOUTS in Innerleithen have launched a new initiative to help safeguard the future of golden eagles in the UK.

Working with the the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, the youngsters will become the county's first ever 'Golden Eagle Champions'.

The Innerleithen Scout Group's new role will allow the children to discover how golden eagles live and survive as well as learning from wildlife experts as they get out and about in the countryside.

It is also hoped that the initiative will further the Scouts' knowledge of the local environment and the abundance of wildlife on their doorstep.

As part of their new role the children will also be designing a special badge that can be earned as part of their work.

The population of golden eagles in the Borders has dropped in recent decades due to human activity and changes in land use, with between two and four pairs of the birds remaining in the south of Scotland.

The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project aims to reinforce this small, isolated and vulnerable population of the birds.

Speaking on the launch of the initiative Philip Munro, Community Outreach Officer for the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project said: “We are absolutely delighted to be working with the Scottish Borders Scouts, and their trailblazing Innerleithen Group, on the UK’s first ever Golden Eagle Champions initiative.

"The future of conservation depends on initiatives like this that encourage young people to get involved and make a difference. Their involvement will truly lead the way for other local Scout Groups and make a huge contribution to helping to safeguarding the future of this iconic species in the south of Scotland and beyond.”

Chris Kennedy, a volunteer with Scouts Scotland and currently leading their Innerleithen Scout Group, said: “We are really excited to be part of this incredible project to help protect Scotland’s Golden Eagles. This is a fantastic opportunity for our Scouts to take a hands on approach, working together with other people across our community as well as some of the country’s leading wildlife and raptor experts on such a hugely important issue.

"The young people involved really will get a chance to impact on our natural heritage for generations to come, and is a real example of how Scouts can make a difference in the communities they live in.

“And the opportunity isn’t just for our young people; our adult volunteers at our Innerleithen Group will also get the chance to be involved in the project so if this sounds like something you would like to help with then we’d love to hear from you.”

Steve Backshall, Scouts Ambassador said: “This is an amazing opportunity for Scouts in the Scottish Borders to be a part of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project. They will be playing a vital role in the continued protection of many unique and important species, such as Scotland’s golden eagles.”

Francesca Osowska, Scottish Natural Heritage’s Chief Executive, said: “Congratulations to Innerleithen Scout Group for being the UK’s first-ever Golden Eagle Champions! This is a wonderful programme, and I’m sure they’ll love seeing and learning about these magnificent birds right in the Borders. It’s fantastic to see the golden eagles doing so well in South Scotland, and we’re thrilled to help return them to places where they were once an important part of our wildlife.”