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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 3rd June 2000
Issue No 182

Moray Firth Dolphins Still Under Threat

A dire warning over the future of the world's most northerly colony of bottlenosed dolphins has prompted an Inverness councillor to call for action "before we reach the point of no return."

The appeal by councillor Clive Goodman follows predictions by the boss of Moray Firth Wildlife Centre at Garmouth, Tony Archer, that the colony will be extinct within 50 years if action is not taken immediately. The colony has, over the years, become a major tourist attraction, with several cruise operators running sightseeing tours out into the Moray Firth. The dolphin has also become one of the recognised symbols of Inverness and surrounding area. The last estimate put the colony at 129 strong. Mr Archer says the colony appears to be decreasing at a rate of 6 per cent a year - a figure backed up by research carried out by Government nature adviser, Scottish Natural Heritage. He cites pollution, a lack of available food and human interference in the form of speed boats and jet skis as factors partly responsible for the decline. Councillor Goodman, vice chairman of the Moray Firth Partnership, which is made up of around 100 bodies with an interest in the management of the Firth, this week admitted the colony is "extremely vulnerable" and that there are grave concerns for its future. He said: "The Partnership has recognised the problem for some time and the results of surveys which have been carried out have hardened our views. This pod lives at the extremeties of where dolphins are naturally found. "The decline is alarming - you can't dispute the data which has been established after rigorous testing. Its extremely serious and we don't want to get to the point of no return. What we want to try and do first is put a stop to the decline and hopefully turn it around." SNH's Inverness area officer, Ben Layshon, who has studied the issue, said the estimate of an annual 6 per cent decline was based on a population model filled in by assumptions made by experts based on various factors. The latest warnings follow concerns last year about a skin disease found in the Moray Firth dolphins, described at the time by one expert as "the sickest in the world".

Historic Spectacle

Fort George saw the launch of Historic Scotland's millennium programme recently. It will feature over 600 events at 36 different properties throughout the country. One of the highlights for this year will be a weekend long extravaganza which will draw together the best of activities at the Ardersier fortress into one event. Minister for Children and Education Sam Galbraith was at Fort George to announce some of this year's attractions. He said: "The castles, abbeys and other buildings in Historic Scotland's care are vital links in Scotland's story. These events help to bring history alive and make learning fun. "Here at Fort George, visitors can meet a redcoat soldier of the 1700s and learn about the hardships experienced by soldiers and their families at a turbulent time in Scottish history."

Ben Wyvis Loses Out

A huge area of 3,433ft Ben Wyvis is to have designation as national nature reserve withdrawn because "primacy of nature" cannot be maintained on the land involved. Scottish Natural Heritage's north areas board has agreed to de-designate 8,360 acres of the sprawling East Ross mountainside owned by Wyvis Estates, largely because it cannot enforce nature's priorities over sporting and military uses. A further 5,614 acres bought by SNH predecessor the Nature Conservancy Council in 1985 will however retain its NNR status. The board has also agreed in principle that SNH should seek to extend its landholding on Ben Wyvis if the opportunity arises, subject to availability of cash and value for money.

Pioneer Aviator Honoured

Aircrew past and present joined forces recently with other aviation enthusiasts to honour Britain's earliest pioneer of military flying, whose remains lie in a remote Highland cemetery. The Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Army Air Corps and Highland branch of the Aircrew Association paid tribute to the memory of Captain Bertram Dickson and the Royal Flying Corps, which his efforts helped to found. A Tornado jet fighter and Army Lynx helicopters flew in salute over Capt Dickson's grave at Achanalt, Ross and Cromarty, during the ceremony, organised by the Aircrew Association. Wing Commander the Rev Andrew Willis, padre at RAF Lossiemouth, conducted a short service at the grave of the intrepid Edinburgh born artillery officer and Boer War veteran, the first member of HM Forces to qualify as a pilot in 1910. Later, officers from all three services laid wreaths at his tombstone, as pipers played a lament.

Take a Seat

Visitors to the Made in Scotland shop and gallery in Beauly are being asked to "Take a Seat" for a new exhibition believed to be the first in the country devoted to chairs. The display of seating, organised by Highland craftsman Dave Hutchinson, appear in Made in Scotland's recently expanded gallery area for two months before touring the region for the remainder of the year. The exhibition features designs from the past, present and future. The first part traces the development of chairs and features old designs from the Highlands. Five new chairs have been commissioned from some of the country's finest furniture makers especially for the second stage of the exhibition. The third section deals with futuristic chairs. The exhibition will also visit Inverness Museum and Art Gallery and the Iona Art Gallery in Kingussie.

Watch Your Step

A rescue team leader has renewed calls for tourists to watch their step on a popular route up Ben Nevis, which is to be upgraded. Last year, Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team was called out to 17 incidents on the so called tourist path up Britain's highest peak. But team leader, Terry Confield wants maps and tourist publications to redesignate the path as a "mountain track" to deter some of the less abled from tackling the route. "It is certainly not a tourist path," said Mr Confield. "It's a very arduous, rock strewn track with sheer or steep edges in several places and is often shrouded in mist and slippery with the rain." Out of the 70 alerts dealt with last year by the team, 17 were accidents on the "tourist path" and involved broken ankles, damaged knees, hypothermia, heat exhaustion and heart attacks. "If we can make folk aware that a walk up Ben Nevis is a serious undertaking and not a casual stroll, then we will be achieving something positive," said Mr Confield.

Online Boost for Gaelic

Gaelic speakers and learners around the world will now only need access to an online computer to be able to obtain books, tapes and other material in the language. The Gaelic Books Council has launched its own website offering access to every Gaelic book in print as well as a limited range of tapes, CDs and CD-ROM''s. Launching the website, Minister of State at the Scotland Office Brian Wilson said: "Gaelic's future must depend on looking outwards as well as maintaining the language within it's heartlands. There is plenty evidence of an extensive worldwide interest in the Gaelic language and culture. "There is a huge potential market which has not, until now, been sufficiently recognised and I confidently expect to see demand for Gaelic books, learners courses and other materials doubling and trebling as a result of Internet trading.

Charity Event

The proposed new cancer unit at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness has received an 11.500 boost after an oil painting anonymously donated to the fund was bought by a Canadian art enthusiast. The Sutherland benefactor, who wished to remain anonymous, donated the family painting to say thank you to the Macmillan nurses for their support while she recovered from cancer treatment at the hospital. It was her express wish that the money raised by its sale would go solely to the unit.

Political Roundup

Still a Chance

Two Scottish towns remain in the running to be the Millennium City, a home office minister claimed recently. Inverness and Stirling - whose hopes appeared dashed by earlier reports that only English conurbations remain with any hope of Year 2000 royal recognition for city status - remain contenders. Mike O'Brien said that earlier reports ruling them out were based on a leaked document which considered only the English contestants. It suggested that the choice was between Brighton and Wolverhampton. Mr O'Brien said applications from towns in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland would be fully considered before a recommendation was made to the Queen.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Dry. Sunny spells. Local mist clearing. Winds light E. Temperature 12c to 15c.
Saturday Night
Cloudy. Rain in S heavy/persistent. Clearer in the N. Winds mod/fresh E. Temperature 2c to 7c.
A chilly start followed by bright sunshine with variable cloud. Cooling sea breezes on coasts.
Cool and cloudy. Most places dry with only the occasional light shower. Winds light/mod E.

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This is Caledonia ( Caley for short ) A Ness-Scape family member and mascot. She is a White German Shepherd. Caley has decided to take over the editing of Nessie's Loch Ness Times, and she's sure she'll make a good job of it. What do you think?

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