Scotland's cat; less than 100 remain...
Far back in the history of Scotland clans formed together under the image of the wildcat and fought wars for the independence of the land. Today the evidence suggests less than 100 Scottish wildcats remain in the wild and the extinction of Britain's last large mammal predator could come within the next year.
Welcome to the home of the Scottish Wildcat Association, a charitable organisation dedicated to protecting and conserving Britain's only remaining wild feline; the Scottish wildcat.
No angry tabby or feral the wildcat is a genuine wild species of cat; it was here long before we were and long before the domestic cat had even evolved. Infamously the only wild animal to be completely untameable, even when captive reared, Scottish wildcats may look a little like your pet cat but these are incredibly tough super-predators, sometimes called the Tiger of the Highlands.
Sadly, our wildcat is critically endangered with less than 100 individuals appearing to remain in the wild and barely a handful in the captive breeding population. We carry out a wide range of campaigns and projects designed to rebuild and conserve the wildcat population across the Scottish Highlands through active fieldwork, support of scientific research, fundraising for the captive breeding programme and general public education and awareness.
On this website you can learn more about Scottish wildcats and the conservation projects that have been developed to try and save them; please note our latest news update below.
29/09/2013; Latest news...
After a series of meetings and discussions with members, the charity regulator and other conservationists involved in supporting the wildcat, the Scottish Wildcat Association is in the process of winding down and dissolving.
We have found it increasongly difficult to attract the level of funding required to truly make a difference to wildcats limiting the charity remit to Scottish wildcats alone. As a result, a new organisationbal structure is in the process of being formed by various conservationists who have worked closely with the SWA over the years. They will continue to progress the Haven project in Scotland and seek the higher level, cross-Europe, funding that can make a difference for these cats.
Wind down and set up processes run very slowly in the charity sector, so the SWA will be around for some time, memberships and sponsorships are closed to new sign ups or renewals, and similar systems will be developed under the new structure. A new resource for public donations will be set up in the coming weeks; please keep an eye on here or our Facebook account "Save the Scottish Wildcat" linked top right.
We have made every effort to ensure that this period of change doesn't affect efforts with the wildcat; fieldwork will continue to run with the same people in the field doing the same work neutering feral cats and researching the conservation needs of the species, all that is really changing are the charitable structures around that.
This website will remain open as a point of resource to those seeking information on wildcats and at a later point transfer to the new charity.
Thank you to everyone who has supported the charity over the years, which acheived a great deal in a short time with very little resources. We have taken these decisions with great thought and more than a little sadness, unfortunately there is a vast chasm between the financial support wildcats need and the finances available in Scotland, and with time rapidly running out we must find new directions and ensure that everone's attention is focused on them.
We will update periodically as the work progresses, we are in the days of the last chance for the wildcat, but the chance is still there and all of us from the SWA will still be fighting for it.
29/09/2013; What is Wildcat Haven?
Wildcat Haven is a widely supported action plan to try and save the pure Scottish wildcat, or the closest possible hybrid wildcat if there are not enough pure wildcats left.
The project live traps all the felines across any given remote peninsula; we established the project in Ardnamurchan in the West Highlands, however it can work on any peninsula.
Those trapped cats are identified using a genetic test which tells us exactly how hybridised they are. It can then be calculated how many are needed to create a viable population, and then to draw a dividing line between wildcats to conserve and everything else.
Everything non-wildcat is neutered and the land bridge to the mainland is heavily live trapped and monitored to prevent feral cats moving back in, leaving the peninsula feral cat free. Local communities are engaged with to ensure all pet cats in the peninsula are neutered and innoculated against feline diseases.
The wildcats are brought into captivity at an in-situ captive breeding centre whilst the neutering work takes place, by combining with captive breeding expertise then it becomes possible to build a viable population out of one that would naturally be un-viable. Once the feral cat population is neutered, captive wildcats can begin to be released.
Added benefits of the work are the opportunity to check the general health of the feline population, and to radio collar a sample of cats to see how they use the habitat and engage with each other, potentially revealing infomation about preferential habitat types that can then be developed and expanded, or ways to prevent wildcats meeting hybrids or ferals in the wild.
By setting up multiple Wildcat Havens across Scotland, young cats who are yet to establish a territory can be relocated across Havens to maintain genetic diversity. Over time, and with enough support, it may be possible to join up these fractured Havens with wildlife corridors, or to expand them to cover the entire West Highlands, which is large enough to support a healthy population. The only human intervention would be looking out for feral cats and policing the borders against migrating feral cats.
The project has been trialled over the last three years, significantly reduced feral cat mating activity in the region already, and identified several cats that appear to be either pure wildcats or extremely close hybrids. Efforts will be greatly expanded this year to fully roll out the project, and to capture detailed information on the viable purity level of the Scottish wildcat, and the efficacy of neutering as a way to control feral cat populations.
The approach ensures that we don't accidentally wipe out what is left by being too perfectionist, whilst also ensuring we can conserve either the true wildcat, or the closest possible thing to it.
Criticism of Government plans for the wildcats centres on this issue; Wildcat Haven aims high, and starts with the assumption that the pure wildcat survives and can be protected. At the present time Government efforts have already defined a significantly hybridised wildcat as their benchmark before they have taken a detailed look at what is out there.
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