Below you can find links to key Scottish wildcat press coverage reaching back to 1998, along with brief notes on factual inaccuracies and context with each link. This is by no means an exhaustive archive of every wildcat story, just those featuring the major events and key players in the modern conservation effort.
Lots happening lately, and tricky to keep up with. At the end of 2014 SNH announced that 6 months of research across six areas of the Highlands revealed no wildcats, leading to them naming those six areas priorities for wildcat conservation. Much of this research was based on a genetics test from RZSS. RZSS have been criticised for knowingly breeding and marketing hybridised wildcats as the real thing only to neuter them a short while later, and defended their actions based on the same genetics test.
A scientist came forward from the SNH Action Plan stating; "How can they designate an area for wildcat preservation that doesn't actually have traces of any wildcats? How can they claim it is a national survey when vast tracts of the western Highlands were not included? SNH are hiding behind genetics tests which I believe not to be valid as they are based on a small population of European wildcats in Switzerland and none are from pure Scottish wildcats. They have knowingly been breeding a lot of hybrids and then neutering them."
Moving into 2015 the independent Wildcat Haven effort announced further successes expanding their feral cat free zone with more neutering of feral and pet cats, stating that their own genetics test was close to complete after five years of field verification using only Scottish wildcat DNA.
Further controversy appeared around the SNH/RZSS action plan as they attempted a rebrand ("Scottish Wildcat Action") and shuffled around the public facing officers. Welfare group CAPS received a leaked set of minutes from an action plan meeting outlining plans to build a new captive breeding population by drawing animals from the wild, potentially extincting the wildcat in the wild in the process. Endorsing the Haven action plan as the way forward CAPS, Haven and an independent expert spoke out strongly against the SNH plans, particularly as SNH had already announced a priority action zone within the Haven working area; potentially removing pure wildcats from the one safe place they have in the wild.
14/12/2014 BBC 'Wildcat conservation project given almost £1m'
SNH announce that the Lottery has awarded their wildcat action plan with almost £1m, unfortunately, Lottery money can only be used to directly benefit the general public and as such none of this money can be used for things like scientific research or neutering feral cats, what it can be used for is PR; and with SNH moving towards defining wildcats by an extremely relaxed pelage criteria this means marketing a redefined wildcat to the people of Scotland, whitewashing the imminent extinction of the genetically pure form.
23/11/2014 Guardian/Observer 'Why the Scottish wildcat is threatened by its saviour'
Strong piece from the Guardian raising issue with SNH's continued approach to wildcat conservation following a run of conflicting stories on what's going on at present. An interesting quote in here includes internal criticism of the RZSS genetics test that was recently used to legitimise captive breeding efforts, so does the test work or not?
12/11/2014 Scotsman 'Experts fear Scottish wildcat may be extinct'
Interesting reading between the lines by the Scotsman, following an SNH press release naming six areas as priority wildcat conservation areas having carried out genetics research showing that no wildcats existed there, some fine logic there.
07/10/2014 Herald 'Rare zoo wildcats not quite as rare as visitors may think'
Leaks reveal that most of the wildcats bred and marketed at RZSS' Highland Wildlife Park have since been neutered as hybrids draws concern from conservationists and welfare groups, RZSS legitimise their work with talk of a genetics test, which is commented on in the 23/11 Guardian piece by a scientist working alongside RZSS; "SNH are hiding behind genetics tests which I believe not to be valid as they are based on a small population of European wildcats in Switzerland and none are from pure Scottish wildcats."
15/07/201 Herald Haven to save the wildcat from total extinction
Phenomenal news from the Wildcat Haven project hacing neutered all the feral and hybrid cats across almost 250 square miles of remote Highlands peninsula; within a few years the populations will collapse leaving just wildcats behind.
28/09/2013 Guardian Extinction by stealth: how long can the Scottish wildcat survive?
Scottish Natural Heritage launch their wildcat action plan drawing criticism from conservationists who insist that the plan is a PR whitewashing exercise that cannot possibly save the species. The three page action plan includes the statement "we are seeking to protect a distinct group of cats that look like wildcats, but may not all be genetically pure wildcats."
28/09/2013 Guardian How Spain saved the lynx
Criticism of SNH efforts to conserve the wildcat compared against efforts with the Iberian lynx.
24/09/2013 BBC Lottery funding for new effort to save Scottish wildcats
SNH announce their new action plan and almost £1m of Lottery funding awarded to it, in fact, the Lottery has awarded the plan £30k to fund drawing up a full application, no money at all has been awarded for conservation work, the Scottish Wildcat Association (SWA) announce they have left the action plan project which is nothing more than "PR fluff".
22/09/2013 Sunday Times Casino king's last roll of the dice to save wildcat
Aspinall Foundation announce the Carna breeding project; a plan to set up an in-situ breeding centre on a small island off of the Wildcat Haven project area to be used for breeding and soft releases alongside the project.
21/05/2013 BBC Scottish wildcat could be extinct 'within two years'
Expert geneticist Dr Paul O'Donoghue, leading efforts to identify wildcats genetically at Chester University, states his belief that the wildcat will be extinct within two years without urgent help.
26/09/2012 Scotsman Wildcats could be released across Scotland under plans to save 'Highland Tiger'
SNH announce plans to start a captive breeding program, even though one already exists and they work directly with one of the main players, RZSS. Unfortunately, none of the captive animals are true wildcats and no one knows where any true wildcats can be found. SWA state their support of establishing of an action planning group suggested by SNH.
13/09/2012 BBC Scottish wildcat extinct within months, association says
The SWA announce that fewer than 35 Scottish wildcats survive in Scotland against SNH estimates of "between 1,000 and 4,000", "less than 400" and "150 breeding pairs", all in the same paragraph; Scottish wildcats do not form lifelong breeding pairs.
01/09/2012 Herald National Action Plan Announced to Save Scottish Wildcat
SNH announce intention to develop national action plan running off of Cairngorms Wildcat Project / Highland Tiger, SWA announce their support and desire that everyone move on from "pretending that taking photos of hybrids is somehow saving the wildcat".
31/08/2012 BBC Scottish wildcat project efforts continue
SNH funded Cairngorms Wildcat Project / Highland Tiger funding ends, the project states there are 150 breeding pairs of wildcats in the Cairngorms and that project efforts would continue; wildcats do not form 'breeding pairs' and efforts have not continued. Project partner RZSS announces intent to research cloning wildcats for the third time in three years, even though it is impossible without genetic material from pure wildcats, and there is little possibility cloned wildlife would ever be allowed to be released into the wild.
29/08/2012 BBC When is a wildcat really a wildcat?
Dr Paul O'Donoghue at Chester University announces ongoing independent research to identify wildcats using genetics, after discovering previous SNH funded research had accidentally utilised feral cat and hybrid genetic samples instead of wildcat samples.
25/08/2011 BBC Dolly scientist working on cloning Scottish wildcats
Dolly the sheep researchers say they are cloning wildcats, they are not; it is impossible without genetic samples from a pure Scottish wildcat, and it is unlikely any government would risk introducing cloned animals into the wild. RZSS say they are also planning to clone wildcats, again.
18/08/2010 BBC Cloning technology suggested for Scottish wildcats
RZSS announce they are planning to clone wildcats, even though it is impossible without pure wildcat genetic samples and extremely unlikely cloned animals would ever be released into the wild.
18/04/2010 Guardian Endangered: are Scotland's wildcats running out of lives?
SNH announce two new reports due later in the month on wildcat distribution and genetics, with overview of SNH funded Cairngorms Wildcat Project / Highland Tiger. These reports were never mentioned again; a series of administrative errors and underfunding meant that both led to inconclusive results and were useless for purpose. The genetics has since been repeated by Chester University, whilst SNH are currently (2014) taking a fifth attempt in a decade at a population and distribution estimate utilising a methodology which has already been peer-reviewed as unsuitable for purpose and verified by the researcher that designed it to do something else entirely as unsuitable for purpose.
06/04/2010 Scotsman Expats fund bid to save the Scottish wildcat
SWA publicly announce receipt of US funding for their Wildcat Haven fieldwork project in the West Highlands, utilising a neutering methodology to control feral cats, and support of a range of leading international wildcat and feline experts to shape the Haven action plan.
04/05/2009 BBC New project to protect wildcats
Official launches of Scottish Wildcat Association and SNH funded Cairngorms Wildcat Project / Highland Tiger announced. SWA had already been in operation for about a year planning the Wildcat Haven project whilst awaiting clearances of charity paperwork.
14/04/2008 BBC Experts join forces in drive to save the Scottish wildcat
SNH, Cairngorms National Park Authority, RZSS and Scottish Gamekeepers Association announce wildcat conference to plan a future for the species and announce what they've already planned to do; the Cairngorms Wildcat Project / Highland Tiger, led by the same groups. SNH are back to claiming there are 3,500 wildcats at this point even though their chief scientist has already said on camera that they accept there are fewer than 400 and RZSS insist their captive wildcats are all pure even though none pass the pelage criteria assessment.
12/03/2008 Scotsman Shooting & Fishing: Searching for the elusive wildcat
SNH call for wildcat sightings, a call almost entirely ignored, in the end the SWA provided several hundred sightings the general public had reported to them. The data was used by SNH to theorise there may be 2000 wildcats left in the wild, and by the SWA to arrive at a figure of 35.
28/02/2008 Guardian Country Diary
Overview of SNH funded five year action plan to survey wildcat population, partly referring to the Cairngorms Wildcat Project (a three year public awareness exercise limited to the Cairngorms National Park), and partly to a two year survey so poorly funded by SNH that the end result was inconclusive.
02/07/2007 Scotsman Fresh fears over fate of the Scottish wildcat
BBC filmmaker Fergus Beeley, who first filmed Scottish wildcats in the early 90s, raises concerns that they are disappearing from the wild, the SWA echo his concerns whilst SNH say no one can be certain.
08/04/2005 Scotsman How to save Scotland's wildcats ... just neuter the family feline
Oxford University state that estimates of 1,000-4,000 wildcats in Scotland are inaccurate, that the number is closer to 400 and current legislation is inadequate to protect them, calling for amendments and immediate widespread neutering of feral cats. Roy Dennis calls for an immediate cull of feral cats, SNH say that they are working on considering everything.
17/02/1998 Herald A cat among the pigeons
A remarkable article mentioning the Stonehaven courtcase where an SNH "expert" could not identify whether several cats killed by a gamekeeper were wildcats or not, an SNH research study by the son of said expert claiming wildcats had hybridised into extinction anyway, quotes from an SNH officer insisting these extinct wildcats should be protected anyway and determination from SNH at large that the law would not be altered in any way to ensure said protection of said extinct or not-extinct wildcats. Also claims that SNH research into identifying wildcats through genetics is ongoing, just as they continue to claim today, 16 years later. Don't worry folks, Scotland's natural heritage couldn't be in more competent hands...