An initiative to tackle wildlife crime has been launched with the first Police Scotland special constables to tackle wildlife and rural issues within Cairngorms National Park formally taking up their duties.
The Scottish Government and the Cairngorms National Park Authority is funding the pilot project, which will see five officers, who are all currently special constables and based across the three Police Scotland divisions covered by the national park area, concentrate on wildlife and rural crime.
They will engage with other agencies to prevent wildlife crime and build on existing relationships with those living and working in the Cairngorms National Park.
Detective Chief Superintendent David McLaren from Police Scotland said: "Tackling wildlife crime in Scotland is something that Police Scotland takes very seriously. Our priority should be preventing these crimes in the first place and we can only do this through strong partnership working and with the help of the public.
"It is our hope that by having this additional policing resource within the Cairngorms National Park we will be able to deter wildlife criminals. By building good relationships with those using the park, for work or leisure, we will also seek to better educate the public in identifying and reporting suspicious activity."
Grant Moir, CEO of Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: "Wildlife crime is unacceptable and damages the reputation of the Cairngorms as an outstanding National Park for nature. I am pleased to see the start of the special constable pilot with Scottish Government and Police Scotland to tackle this issue, but of course I would much prefer that this sort of resource was not needed to tackle an issue that should not be happening in 21st century Scotland.
"This is just part of the work that we are all undertaking to tackle this issue and the CNPA look forward to working closely with the Special Constables and Police Scotland."