National effort needed to save Scottish wildcat - NatureScot

Wildcat (felix sylvestris) at the RZSS Highland Wildlife Park. ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot
Wildcat (felix sylvestris) at the RZSS Highland Wildlife Park. ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

Research published today by NatureScot is being used to inform the action needed to secure the long-term future of the critically-endangered wildcat in Scotland.

To establish a sustainable population of wildcats the research recommends a number of actions, to work alongside releases of wildcats, for population reinforcement. These include reducing the threat of hybridisation with domestic cats and hybrids, improving the habitats wildcats use, and reducing deaths from disease, persecution and road traffic accidents.

Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the suite of nine technical reports and a summary report presents all of the work completed by Scottish Wildcat Action, a multi-partner project led by NatureScot, which ran from 2015-2020.

Over the five-year lifespan of the project, Scottish Wildcat Action:

The project was able to show that there were too few wildcats for their populations to be sustainable in the short or long term. In 2019 Scottish Wildcat Action shared its evidence with the IUCN SSC (International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Species Survival Commission) Cat Specialist Group, who concluded in their own independent review that the wild population was no longer viable without reinforcement or reintroduction.

Scottish Wildcat Action’s work has been used to inform the design of a next phase of work, Saving Wildcats, led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) in collaboration with NatureScot, Forestry and Land Scotland, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Nordens Ark and Junta de Andalucía, with releases conducted with the support of Cairngorms Connect. Saving Wildcats aims to prevent the extinction of wildcats in Scotland by breeding and releasing them into the wild and is supported by the LIFE programme of the European Union. The team are currently preparing for the first in a series of trial releases of wildcats in the Cairngorms National Park this summer.

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Posted On: 03/05/2023

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