Report details plight of Scottish wildcat

Captive Scottish Wildcat (Felix sylvestris) at the Highland Wildlife Park, East Highland Area. ©Lorne Gill

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Last Wednesday was a pivotal moment for the Scottish wildcat.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Cat Specialist Group launched a report on the current status of the wildcat in Scotland.

Scottish Wildcat Action (SWA) is a partnership of more than 20 leading organisations working to give the wildcat a future here.

The world’s leading cat scientists and conservationists have been invited to carry out the assessment, following increasing concerns over the future of wildcats in Scotland.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) hosted the launch at its wildlife park in Kingussie, which has a popular wildcat enclosure.

A number of representatives from RZSS and SWA were in attendance to report their findings regarding Scotland’s disappearing wildcat.

RZSS is progressing a series of options for the wildcat’s sustainable future in partnership with a range of organisations, including a potential release programme of captive-bred wildcats and a National Wildlife Reintroduction Centre.

The wildcat – also known as the Highland tiger – is one of the UK’s most endangered mammals. Previous studies have cited hybridisation – the breeding of domestic pet and feral cats with wildcats – as the major threat to their survival in the wild.

It is thought hybridisation began to affect the wildcat severely between the 1950s and 1980s, with limited food sources and persecution resulting in the few remaining wildcats breeding with domestic cats.