Former Elmwood students flying high in new career with Elite Falconry

Former SRUC Animal Care students Rebecca (left) and Shari (right).
Former SRUC Animal Care students Rebecca (left) and Shari (right).

Two former Animal care students from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) are flying high in their new careers.

Shari Neil and Rebecca McDougall are enjoying working with unique and exotic birds of prey at Elite Falconry in Cluny, after spending their work placements there while studying at the college’s Elmwood campus.

Rebecca, from Dunfermline, says that since starting work as a falconer four years ago, her confidence has grown.

She said: “A lot of my time is spent educating guests about the different variety of birds at Elite Falconry.

“I love sharing my knowledge with others.

“Being at Elmwood definitely helped with my people skills and presentation skills.

“I now manage and run experience days for guests on a one-to-one basis and for larger groups.”

The centre cares for more than 80 birds ranging from Harris hawks, falcons and kestrels to eagles, vultures, owls and kites.

Shari, from Kirkcaldy, has been employed by the visitor centre since 2017.

She said the NC Animal Care course at Elmwood gave her the confidence and knowledge to handle the birds correctly.

“The focus of our work is on education and conservation and I really enjoy the flying and hunting experiences I do with the public,” she said.

“I would definitely recommend the Animal Care course at Elmwood if you want to work with animals.

“The course covers a wide range of topics, but the ones I most enjoyed, and which have been most useful in my choice of career, were the anatomy, psychology, wildlife rehabilitation and conservation units.”

Roxanne Peggie, Elite Falconry manager, said: “The key to Rebecca and Shari’s success here has been their mindset.

“Birds of prey are hugely demanding and require an intensity of care, exercise and management that is way 
beyond what people expect.

“While recruits from Elmwood need to be taught these skills, they come with a positive approach where they expect to work hard to ensure the birds get all they require.

“Arriving with the right mindset, attitude and enthusiasm, and putting the animals first, is a necessity, but if birds of prey and the lifestyle they bring suits the students, a career with us is a real possibility.”