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Teen conservationist Xander Johnston wins UK National Parks New Horizons title for his 'significant contribution' to the Cairngorms National Park

By Philip Murray

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Xander receiving his award from Carl Lis, Chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. The event was held in Leeds.
Xander receiving his award from Carl Lis, Chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. The event was held in Leeds.

AN INSPIRATIONAL young conservationist now has a hat-trick of titles to his name after he was honoured for his "significant contribution" to the Cairngorms National Park.

Xander Johnston (13) was named this year's UK National Parks New Horizons award winner at the annual UK National Parks Conference in Yorkshire.

The New Horizons award recognises a young person aged 30 or under who has made a significant contribution to any national park.

His award joins his existing recognition as a Cairngorms Nature Ambassador and the RSPB's Young Nature Champion.

Xander ‘Ant Boy’ Johnston first came to the attention of the Cairngorms National Park Authority when he attended a ‘Nest Quest’ to look for Wood Ants as part of the Cairngorms Nature BIG Weekend.

This sparked a love of ants and he entered a video about them into the Young Presenter competition, where he was a runner up in 2017. He is also a regular volunteer with the Cairngorms Rare Invertebrates Project.

Since then his passion for wildlife has seen the Kingussie High School pupil appear on BBC's Springwatch twice as well as on Countryfile.

And, for the past two-and-a-half years, Xander with his dad, Ross, have spent more than 400 hours volunteering in the strath, helping to record and protect some of the UK’s scarcest and least understood invertebrates.

The judges said: “Xander has tirelessly championed the area’s biodiversity, helping to increase the knowledge of rare invertebrates in his local area by finding new sites and raising awareness through his YouTube videos. He is an outstanding young person, whose passion for nature – and considerable knowledge – shines through in every conversation”.

Xander said: “I can’t believe that I have won the 'New Horizons' award, it's such an honour to be recognised for all my hard work. What's more important is the fact that the work I do to protect the little guys (the insects) is also being noticed. They need all of us to help protect them and their environment from further damage.

"Hopefully with me receiving this award, others will start to get involved and help make a difference.”

You can watch some of Xander's videos at www.xanderjo.co.uk. His site boasts more than 30 videos, sharing his survey work, how to rewild your garden, how to respect the outdoors and tread lightly, where to hang nest boxes and build insect hotels.

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