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Last Updated: Monday, 10 April 2006, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Skokholm sold after trust appeal
Skokholm Island
The island had been in the Dale Castle Estate since the 1650s
After a major fundraising drive, a west Wales island has changed hands for the first time in 350 years.

Skokholm, which is three miles off the Pembrokeshire coast, has been bought by the Welsh Wildlife Trusts, which has raised 650,000.

The mile-long island, which was the first bird observatory in Wales, has been managed by a part of the trust for the past 50 years.

The nationwide campaign to buy Skokholm was launched last October.

Skokholm is one of the UK's most spectacular wildlife havens, according to the trusts.

It is home to around 30 different species of breeding birds, migratory birds, seals, rabbits and a variety of other animals.

Surprisingly enough, we didn't have buying an island in our budget, so we had to find hundreds of thousands of pounds
Dr Madeleine Havard

Skokholm last changed hands in 1646, when it was bought for 300 by one of the founders of the Dale Castle Estate, William Philipps.

The family estate has owned it ever since.

When the family decided to offer it up for sale last year, the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales was given the first refusal to buy.

Donations from wildlife-lovers across the world, along with grants from the Countryside Council for Wales, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and the Tubney Charitable Trust, helped raise a total of 650,000.

Dr Madeleine Havard
Dr Havard says the island will be preserved

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, which manages the island, spearheaded the appeal.

Chief executive Dr Madeleine Havard said: "Surprisingly enough, we didn't have buying an island in our budget for last year, so we really did have to find hundreds of thousands of pounds very quickly."

"We launched a public appeal, and in six months that money's all been raised. "We had an absolutely fantastic response from our members, from people who know the island, and from people who just wanted to know this important site was safe in the hands of the wildlife trust for the future."

'Internationally recognised'

Skokholm, Norse for "wooded island", was made famous by the naturalist and author Ronald Lockley, who set up the first bird observatory in Britain there in 1933.

It is one of the most important seabird breeding sites in Europe.

It is internationally recognised for its importance to wildlife, classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Dr Havard explained that owning the island will allow the trust to invest towards its future.

She said: "When you're on a short-term lease, and you're a small charity you keep things ticking over but you can't make big investments.

"Now that it's ours, we will of course be able to invest a bit more, but I want to reassure people we're not going to change the island at all."

The appeal is still open to raise further funds for future management of Skokholm.

The trust's chief executive talk about the island's importance

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