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New Partnership to Restore Native Wildcats to Britain - Wildwood Trust

(image: Wildwood Trust)
(image: Wildwood Trust)

Wildwood Trust is delighted to be working in partnership with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT) to restore species of conservation concern to Britain, with a particular focus on the European wildcat (Felis silvestris).

The European wildcat is one of the rarest and most endangered mammals in Britain. The species disappeared from England and Wales a century ago because of persecution during a time when all predators were considered as vermin. A healthy population of wildcats will help restore the balance in the ecosystem by controlling numbers of prey animals, such as rabbits and rodents, and predators such as foxes through competition for food.

The Wildwood Trust, Durrell and VWT are pooling their skills, knowledge and experience to establish a self-sustaining population of wildcats outside Scotland. Currently, the only wild population of these rare cats is in the remote Highlands. However, this small population has been declared “functionally extinct” as interbreeding has resulted in them having the same gene pool as domestic cats. The long-term goal of this project is to establish a self-sustaining wildcat population in an ecologically suitable landscape in Wales and/or England. Most importantly, the team will ensure the needs and views of local communities are taken into full account during this project.

There will be many stages to ensure a successful reintroduction of wildcats. As a first step, VWT and Durrell have undertaken a preliminary scientific feasibility study to identify potential landscapes for reintroduction. The team are now conducting in-depth ecological and social feasibility studies to find out which areas are most suitable. Some of this detailed work is being carried out in collaboration with the University of Exeter through a joint PhD studentship.

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