Heart of Argyll Wildlife Organisation

The Heart of Argyll Wildlife Organisation (HAWO) is based in Argyll’s Knapdale Forest, an important area for biodiversity. They work with national organisations to monitor species and perform biodiversity restoration work, conserving the habitat for the future. They also provide sustainable tourism activities and educate local school children in wetland ecology.

February 2024

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Heart of Argyll Wildlife Organisation (HAWO), based in Argyll’s Knapdale Forest, educates and inspires members of the public about the ecological significance and rich biodiversity of this unique area of Scotland.

In 2017 they set up the Argyll Beaver Centre, an off-grid, solar powered venue for wildlife displays, visitor information, an ecology-themed shop and a woodland wildlife hide. Alongside manning the centre up to five days a week, they run a busy programme of guided tours and events, the most popular of which is the weekly beaver walk. By facilitating these low-impact sustainable forms of wildlife tourism, they inspire people to better understand and care for their environment.

The income they receive from running the centre is used to provide ecology education and outdoor-learning activities for schools, nurseries, and local community groups of all ages throughout the wider region of Argyll and the Isles.

Aside from community engagement and education, HAWO’s other main aim is conservation. Beavers were only recently re-introduced to the area, and HAWO work closely with the Forestry Commission to monitor and survey their population. In Knapdale, they are the main voice locally in promoting and advocating for the species.

2024 will see HAWO spearhead a new project, carrying out further ecosystem improvement work through invasive species removal and, ultimately, water vole restoration. UK population of water voles has plummeted since the 1960s from around 8 million to less than 1 million. This is partly due to the accidental introduction of the non-native American Mink by the fur market in the 1930s. By removing the increasing population of American Mink they will protect a range of nationally rare and important species of ground-nesting birds, reduce predation pressure on the beaver population (kits can be targeted by mink) and create the conditions to return water voles. Funds from the John Good Group will go towards staff costs, materials and recruitment of volunteers for monitoring this project.

“We are a really small community-led organisation that evolved out of local people’s instinct to care for the ecology of this very beautiful part of Scotland. We are so excited to work on this project to protect native species and boost the health of our wetland ecosystems.

Of course we also have to thank the population of beavers here in Knapdale who have made it a place that people want to visit and a place that now has the perfect habitat for the return (with your help) of another rare aquatic mammal – the endangered water vole.

It is a huge honour to be shortlisted, thank you so much to the staff of the John Good Group.”

Clare Saxby

Heart of Argyll Wildlife Organisation

“It was a pleasure to learn more about the Heart of Argyll Wildlife Organisation. Working with communities, they have made learning accessible and have engaged large swathes of the resident community on Mid Argyll and beyond in their research, most recently in the re-introduction of native oysters and the re-seeding of seagrass meadows in Loch Craignish. With a strong track record, clear dedication and passion for wildlife and biodiversity, I’m sure their latest project will be a success.”

Michelle Taft

Executive Director, Matthew Good Foundation

Latest Project Updates

February 2024

Grants for Good Finalist

The Heart of Argyll Wildlife Organisation has become one of the top five finalists in the latest Grants for Good round, and will receive a grant between £2000 and £5000 after employees at the John Good Group have voted on their favourite causes.