Shetland seems likely to lose its SSPCA wildlife unit at Tingwall following a review being carried out by the animal welfare charity.
The charity said the Shetland unit, which was set up in 2003, is “under review”, as it is investing in a large national centre in Clackmannanshire. But it insists wildlife in Shetland will still be cared for by people based locally.
SSPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “In 2012 we opened our National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Clackmannanshire, investing £3.5 million and developing dedicated facilities to care for and rehabilitate sick and injured wild animals prior to their release.
“The centre, which also has specialist facilities to treat up to 1,000 oiled bird casualties at any one time and benefits from on-site veterinary expertise, can take in thousands of wild animals every year and receives casualties from throughout Scotland, including the Scottish islands.
“It is vital that we use the donations we receive as effectively as possible and that we consider what is in the best interests of animal welfare.
“We are currently reviewing the facilities we need on Shetland, where we currently have a small wildlife unit. The local population can be assured that we will continue to rescue animals in the area.”
The wildlife unit in Tingwall was established in the wake of the Braer oil spill disaster, thanks to a £90,000 donation from BP. It provides a key function in cleaning oiled birds, and also cares for wild birds and other injured wildlife.
Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary owner Jan Bevington said her first reaction on hearing that the unit was under threat was “disbelief”.
Mrs Bevington said: “I feel it’s based on economics. To think they’d fly birds south covered in oil, I don’t even know how they’d do it.
“With the activity now [in the oil industry] you’d think they’d be upgrading, not downgrading, the SSPCA so there would be at least space for basic facilities.
“I don’t see how this is going to help animal welfare and wildlife in particular.”