A new Scottish Wildcat Action website was launched earlier this week at the Scottish Parliament. Scottish Wildcat Action, funded by the Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund, and supported by Scottish Land & Estates and other land-based and conservation organisations is delivering the first national conservation plan to bring back viable populations of Scottish wildcats. The new website has easy-to-use features which encourage people in the Scottish Highlands to report sightings and help with fieldwork.
Reacting to the news Dr Aileen McLeod, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, said: “The Scottish wildcat is one of Scotland’s most endangered mammals and urgent action is needed to ensure they have a future. The Scottish Government is therefore committed to wildcat conservation and I am delighted to support the launch of this new website as part of the wider Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan, which was launched by my predecessor, Paul Wheelhouse, in September 2013.”
Rhoda Grant MSP, who is also the Scottish wildcat species champion, said: “The Scottish Wildcat is part of our heritage that we are desperately seeking to protect. We have a limited time to stop wildcats from disappearing but we also need to reduce the risks from hybridisation and disease from feral cats in the meantime. The launch of the website today will not only help to identify where our remaining wildcats are but it will also help to glean invaluable information on hybrids and feral cat sightings which will allow for the required action to be taken to reduce the hybrids and combat the transmission of disease. The website will offer members of the public the opportunity to be involved in this fantastic project to save this most beautiful of species and will, I am sure, prove to be an invaluable resource in ensuring the wildcat’s survival.”
Scottish Land & Estates support the conservation of the Scottish Wildcat preferring to see limited resources used to ensure the survival of Scotland’s existing native species before further consideration is given to the reintroduction of species that have not existed in Scotland for some time.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) are responsible for developing the conservation breeding for release programme. RZSS are currently looking for sites outside the Priority Areas to undertake live trapping of potential wildcats to assess their suitability for captive breeding and are keen to hear from landowners, land managers and gamekeepers who are interested in being involved in this project and information on sites that may be suitable for trapping. Of particularly interest are areas where feral cat control is currently being undertaken where the use of live traps could be employed to facilitate the capture of potential wildcats. Any potential wildcat trapped will undergo genetic, pelage and veterinary assessment. Cats deemed suitable will be included in the breeding programme and managed under license as part of a captive population to maximise levels of genetic diversity for future release.