Wildcat appealI'll help save wildcats
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 beautiful, shy and elusive creatures. They’re genetically distinct from domestic cats. Once fully grown, they’re more muscular, with bigger skulls and distinctive bushy, black-tipped tails. As predators, they’re a vital part in our ecosystem, preying on small mammals like mice and voles. But by the 20th century, wildcats were extinct in England and Wales, due to persecution and habitat loss. Now legally protected, only 100-400 of these majestic predators remain in the wild, living in the remote Scottish Highlands. Today, hybridisation, disease, deaths on roads and some enduring persecution are wildcats’ biggest threats.
We’re now in the second year of the six-year breeding and release project. Sixteen wildcats are in the process of being welcomed to the conservation breeding for release centre in the highlands, arriving from various wildlife centres around the UK. Donations from PTES supporters last year helped build large enclosures where the cats enjoy a peaceful woodland environment. The wildcats are being paired up, and we’re expecting their first kittens to be born this year.
From next year, the Saving Wildcats project hopes to release approximately twenty cats per year. The cats will be released into the Cairngorms National Park, one of the last wildcat strongholds. Supported by PTES donors, the team surveyed potential sites last year, checking for prey availability and wildcat and domestic cat presence. They gathered over 600,000 images, recording thousands of mice and small voles: wildcats’ main prey. The next step is to survey further afield, and to place more camera traps in the areas where wild living cats were found. The team are also beginning the community outreach stage, to get vital cooperation from local communities and cat owners.
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.
Header image credit RZSS. Central images credit RZSS and Saving Wildcats.