More than £2m has been raised in under 48 hours towards funding a rewilding centre on a 10,000-acre estate near Loch Ness – with most investors coming from outside Scotland.
Dundreggan Rewilding Centre – thought to be a world-first – will act as a gateway to the forest and wild outdoors with accessible trails and is expected to open to the public in 2023.
In order to part-fund the development, Trees for Life, a charity in the Highlands, and Triodos Bank UK offered the public the opportunity to invest through a bond.
The bond was launched on Monday and by Wednesday had raised its £2 million target, with the current total standing at £2,000,889.
The overwhelming majority of the investors came from outside Scotland, with just 8% based in the country.
A total of 415 people invested in the bond, with an average age of 53.
Trees for Life said its aim is to restore the “native Caledonian Forest that once covered much of Scotland”.
“Today, only sparse patches of the original forest remain and much of its wildlife – including capercaillie, red squirrel, golden eagle and crested tit – have also suffered significant declines,” it said.
The rewilding centre at the Dundreggan estate in Glenmoriston – between Loch Ness and the Isle of Skye – will “showcase the recovery of nature and allow visitors to explore wild landscapes, discover Gaelic culture and learn about the region’s unique wildlife all year round”, it said.
They plan to increase woodland cover at Dundreggan from 26% to 41% over the next 10 years.
The nine-year bond used to fund the project will pay investors 6% gross interest per year, with a minimum investment of £50.
Steve Micklewright, chief executive of Trees for Life, said: “We have always benefitted from the support of volunteers, donors and many others across our community, but we were taken aback by the enthusiasm of investors in our crowdfunding offer.
“We are delighted that we can move forward with our plans to connect thousands of people to nature.
“Dundreggan will showcase how large-scale nature recovery can give people amazing experiences, create jobs and benefit local communities.”
Bevis Watts, CEO of Triodos Bank UK, said: “This was the first time that Triodos has offered investors the opportunity to invest directly in a rewilding charity and we were blown away by the response.
“We know that rewilding is a vital conservation tool which can be used to combat climate change and tackle biodiversity loss.
“The phenomenal response to the Trees for Life bond illustrates how strongly rewilding projects resonate with the public, and how many are willing to back such initiatives financially.”