Wildcat appeal

I'll help save wildcats

Clinging on by a claw

Unless we act now, wildcats will almost certainly go extinct in Britain. Hybridisation, disease, deaths on roads and some enduring persecution are wildcats’ biggest threats. To stop them dying out, we’re funding Saving Wildcats, a ground-breaking project to bring wildcats back from the edge of extinction by reintroducing them into the Scottish Highlands.

Wildcats are impressive and fierce native predators. They’re genetically distinct from domestic cats: much larger, with longer legs, bigger heads, thicker tails, denser fur, and powerful bodies. Their territories can be as big as 40 square miles and, as our last native feline predator, they play an important role at the top of the food chain, preying on small mammals like mice and voles. Due to persecution and habitat loss there are only 100-400 left in the wild. There are so few wildcats left that many end up breeding with domestic cats instead, diluting the gene pool and reducing wildcats’ chance of surviving as a separate species.

Saving Wildcats

We’re now in the third year of the six-year breeding and release project. Last year, 18 wildcats from various wildlife centres around the UK arrived at a specially built centre in the Highlands and were paired up. We’re so happy to say that 2022 was a brilliant breeding year and 22 kittens were born; 13 females and nine males. The young wildcats are shortly moving to the pre-release enclosures where they will be prepared for their release into the wild. They’ll undergo training to develop their hunting and foraging skills, and to keep them physically and mentally fit. All the wildcats have limited interaction with people to ensure they retain wild behaviours.

Excitingly, the first cats are due to be released this year, in the Cairngorms National Park, one of the last wildcat strongholds. This area has few landowners and the space and mix of natural habitats wildcats need to roam, forage, build dens and raise kittens. 80 cameras were placed here last year, allowing the team to carry out year-round monitoring for the first time. Using the data collected the team can assess the site suitability and monitor the abundance and distribution of any wildcats already in the area.

I hope you’re as excited about this as we are. We’re investing £100,000 into this important and significant project, which gives great hope for the survival of wildcats in Britain.

Thank you.

Header image credit RZSS. Central images credit RZSS and Saving Wildcats.

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