Forest Enterprise Scotland is working with Police Scotland to identify the thieves that stole five rare Serbian Spruce from Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park last week. The stolen trees (Picea omorika), although an extremely rare species, have no commercial value. However their genetic material was a priceless component of our Perthshire Big Tree Country Conifer Conservation Programme

Serbian Spruce stolen
Forest Enterprise Scotland's Beat Forester, Robin Lofthouse discovered the theft.

Our Conifer Conservation Programme is part of the world-leading International Conifer Conservation Programme (ICCP) based at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE).  The ICCP works in partnership with PKCT to conserve specimens of conifer species that are at risk of extinction in their native range.  

PKCT Project Officer, Tom Christian, said; 

The climate and landscape of Perthshire are ideal for growing conifers and the area provides a very important safe haven for rare and endangered species from around the world. Each Conifer Conservation Programme tree is grown from seed that has been specially collected from its native habitat.

Each tree represents years of work organising expeditions, processing the collected seeds, growing them on and then planting them in Perthshire. Until these trees were stolen, we probably had the most significant collection of these trees outside of their native range.  Because of the nature of these collections, the trees are irreplaceable: there is no way to recover the missing genetic material.

Forest Enterprise Scotland's Beat Forester, Robin Lofthouse, who looks after Kinnoull Hill, said;

At a time when biodiversity around the world is increasingly under pressure, projects such as this play an invaluable part in conserving genetic material. This pointless theft is extremely frustrating not just because of the loss but because the trees are likely to have been killed: the thief had tried to dig them up but left most of the roots in the ground. Sadly, we are now in the situation where we are forced to look at where we could site wildlife cameras to protect other species in the project.

We would urge anyone with any information about this crime to contact Tayside police, or the local Forest Enterprise Scotland office.

Collecting Serbian Spruce seeds in Bosnia 2012 Collecting Serbian Spruce seeds in Bosnia 2012

Collecting Serbian Spruce seeds in Bosnia 2012 involved remote locations, skilled climbing and other hazards.