Wildcat appealMake your donation
Clinging on by a claw
Unless we act now, wildcats will almost certainly go extinct in Britain. We can’t let this happen so we’re funding Saving Wildcats, a really exciting project to bring wildcats back from the edge of extinction by reintroducing them into the Scottish Highlands.
Wildcats are impressive and fierce native predators. Although they look similar to domestic tabby cats, they’re genetically distinct. They’re much larger, with longer legs, bigger heads, thicker tails, denser fur, and powerful bodies. These skilful hunters roam their territories, which can be as big as 40 square miles, playing an important part at the top of the food chain. Once widespread across Britain, in the last hundred years they’ve disappeared from everywhere but Scotland. There are only 100-400 wildcats left in the wild, making them our most endangered native mammal.
Wildcats are so rare that their biggest challenge is finding other wildcats to mate with. If they can’t find wildcats they can breed with domestic cats. Although hybrid kittens are gorgeous and sometimes mistaken for wildcats due to their size, they dilute the gene pool and reduce wildcats’ chance of surviving as a separate species. The dwindling population, lack of immunity to feline diseases, deaths on roads and some enduring persecution means wildcats really are on the brink of extinction in Britain. The only way to save wildcats from extinction in Britain is to reintroduce more. So that’s what we’re doing.
We’re raising and contributing £100,000 to fund Saving Wildcats, a breeding-for-release centre in the Cairngorms National Park.
Over the next three years, the team will be releasing 60 wildcats – 20 each year. Prior to release, each cat will go through a training programme to prepare them for the wild and be vaccinated against disease. The released cats and their offspring will hugely boost wildcat numbers, steadily building a sustainable population. A watchful eye will be kept over the new arrivals, minimising threats, neutering local feral cats and encouraging local landowners to protect wildcats. We’re eager to see the first wildcats released, but this year’s priority is to equip the reintroduction centre, welcome and settle the cats and train them for release.