The future of the Scottish wildcat looks rather gloomy
It’s a while since I gave efforts to save the Scottish wildcat a mention, mainly because I couldn’t really see any good news to relate, and because there also seemed to be disagreement between those who should know better.
With extinction so close, that’s a truly sad and disappointing thing to have to note.
On 2 April 2015, we had Scottish wildcat captive breeding plan defended – BBC News
Sadly, this article reveals that rather than get together, various experts have taken up opposing views on whether it is better to create a haven which promotes safe living and breeding areas for wildcats, or to trap them and stock captive breeding programmes.
Surely the issue not for organisation to fight over which is right or wrong, as it should be obvious that a mix is needed. We already have animals in captivity that are breeding. We also need haven areas where animals can be protected and allowed to live and breed. Polarised groups at war only produce one thing – casualties!
Only a few weeks after this story, we had an even more alarming report: Five years to save Scottish wildcat from extinction – The Scotsman
Here, we learn that a decade after the worrying number of only 400 wildcats remaining, estimates on the population now put the figure as low as 100, and:
More than 20 organisations have joined forces to stop the species from vanishing and they have just five years to do it. Work by the newly formed Scottish Wildcat Action (SWA) group will focus on six priority areas believed to support the highest densities of the indigenous cat, which once roamed the whole of the UK. Covering more than 64,000 hectares, the sites are in Strathbogie in Aberdeenshire, the Angus Glens, Morvern in Lochaber, Strathpeffer in Easter Ross, Strathavon in Moray and northern Strathspey.
The team’s first job is to work with land managers and cat owners to try to tackle hybridisation and disease from wild-living and pet cats, accidental persecution and the impact of development.
They will also set up a network of around 300 motion-sensitive cameras to shed new light on the animals inhabiting each area.
Another part of the programme will focus on local vets and cat protection organisations to co-ordinate a programme of trapping, neutering, vaccinating and releasing feral cats to stop them cross-breeding with wildcats.
Zoologist Dr Roo Campbell, project manager for the SWA, said: “We have five years to stop wildcats from disappearing but we need to improve the fortunes for Scottish wildcats in the long term.”
“Success depends on working with local people to make a difference for the wildcats in their area. Together we can ensure the Scottish wildcat survives, not just over the next five years but into the future.”
The conservation areas were also reported: Work starts on six Scottish wildcat conservation areas – BBC News
July 2015 saw some good news as the Highland Wildlife Park shows off wildcat kittens – BBC News
But September saw a mix of good and bad news, with the potential to increase the haven areas, but an alarming drop in the estimated numbers: Wildcat Haven plans to create network of reserves in west Highlands | Highlands & Islands | News:
Wildcat Haven was recently gifted land in the Ardnamurchan area, where the organisation looks after 500 miles of wilderness.
It plans to sell plots on the reservation to the public for between £30 and £250 and use the profits to improve the wilderness for wildcats and build up a network reservations across the west Highlands.
Some experts believe there may be as few at 35 pure-breed wildcats left, making them rarer than the giant panda and the Siberian tiger.
This is a short video report from September 2015: Six areas identified for Scottish Wildcat conservation – BBC News
Yet another report from September only brought more bad news, as it was found that feline HIV (FIV) was spreading from the domestic cat population into the wild: Feline HIV threat to Scotland’s wildcats – BBC News
A short item from October 2015: Most ‘best quality wildcats’ in Angus Glens – BBC News
Find out more here:
The wildcat pic at the top of the page is actually clipped from one of my own, taken in Cumbernauld’s Palacerigg Country Park some years ago, but on reading its web page, it seems that the wildcats (and other species that were being conserved there) have gone, but no reason is given, which is unfortunate.
It seem the four-letter ‘p’ word (politics) had a part to play, and while this article from 2006 describes the loss of many of the animals once resident in Palacerigg, it fails to describe their fates:
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