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Last Updated:  Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Sheep enlisted to protect flower
Scottish Primrose
The flower is only found in Scotland

A "flying flock" of sheep has been enlisted to help protect one of Scotland's native wild flowers.

Conservation charity the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) will send the sheep out to pasture at Hermand Birchwood nature reserve in West Lothian in an attempt to protect and nurture the Scottish Primrose (Primula Scotica).

The organisation owns a "flying flock" of 110 Shetland sheep in Fife, so called because they are moved around six nature reserves in the area.

SWT's senior conservation manager for the south of Scotland, Alan Anderson, said he hoped the sheep, which were first used on Orkney 10 years ago, would go out to graze in September.

Mr Anderson said: "The reserve in Orkney was using this kind of sheep to improve the grasslands and the Scottish Primrose, which is one of the very, very few plants found exclusively in Scotland.

"When using the sheep on the land the numbers just rocketed.

"We thought, obviously it's working well here so we thought about using it somewhere else."

More space to bloom

Mr Anderson said that the Shetland sheep are used as they are smaller and used to hardier terrain.

The sheep are put on the grass in late summer, after the flowers have bloomed and spread their seed, to eat the grass and the dead flowers.

As a result, by the time spring comes again, the flowers have more space to bloom.

Mr Anderson said it was an environmentally friendly idea that avoids the need for machinery having to cut the meadows.

He said: "We just let the sheep out and they do their thing."

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