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Balnain Primary School overall winners of Scottish mammal art competition

Balnain Primary School in Glen Urquhart have been revealed as the winners of a Highland-wide competition on Scottish mammal art. The competition, organized by High Life Highland Countryside  Rangers, was judged by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) at Edinburgh Zoo.

The winning school entry was Highland Acre Wood by pupils of Primary 2, 3 and 4 at Balnain Primary School, who were presented with their prize today. They made a model of their view of Highland Acre Wood from the classroom window using recycled and natural materials from the playground. The pupils also made a video explaining how and why they had made the model for the competition.

The art competition is a celebration of work done throughout the year by school pupils all over the Highlands with the Countryside Ranger Service looking at mammals of Scotland, past present and future. Over 40 schools from Lochaber to Caithness took part in the project and went out with the rangers to see what mammals could be found near the school.

The winning individual entry was by a stunning painting of a fox created by Ava Gunn of Golspie Primary School.

A special commendation was made for the entry from Tarbat Old Primary School, Portmahomack.

Julie MacLeod, head teacher at Balnain Primary said:

“Our pupils are such nature lovers! They loved doing the mammals project with our local Countryside Ranger, John Orr, and really enjoyed creating their own ‘Highland Acre Wood’ which looks a bit like the woods outside our classroom. They worked really well together and are so pleased with their finished design. They’re absolutely delighted to have won!”

Donald Mitchell, Countryside Ranger for NW Sutherland said:

“It was very surprising to all of us just how many different species of mammals we saw. Some were recorded in trail cameras others were recorded by their tracks and signs. We had some lively discussions in the classroom about what mammals used to live in the Highlands many years ago, some now teetering on the brink of survival like the Scottish wildcat, and what the future holds of all our precious mammal species.”

Donald added:

“We were very pleased to be able to work with our partners at RZSS and for their support for this project.”

There were over 200 entries to the competition and judging was a very hard task. Lizzie Seymour, Learning Technology Officer with RZSS, said:

“We’ve had so much fun voting for the best entry in the mammal art competition. There were some wonderful entries and the standard was so high and all very different from each other. It is obvious that the pupils have had a great time with this project and learned so much about the amazing animals that live in this country. We hope to have inspired some of the next generation of zookeepers and conservationists who will help create a world where nature is protected, valued and loved.”

The prize for the winning school, kindly donated by the RZSS, will be free entry for the class to Highland Wildlife Park, near Aviemore and will include a special polar bear feed for them.

There is still time next term if any school has not yet had time to interact with the Rangers and get involved. Next year 2023, the Ranger service theme for schools will be wildflowers and their importance for pollinators in the Highlands.

As well as our environmental education work with schools, High Life Highland’s Countryside Rangers run public events including guided walks throughout the Highlands aiming to raise awareness and encourage appreciation of the scenery, wildlife, and heritage. HLH Countryside Rangers work with many organisations in the Highlands to help promote and protect our wildlife and heritage.