Scottish wildcat conservation
Most of us yearn to catch a glimpse of the Highland tiger, yet never do. If we don’t act immediately, we never will. Scotland's wildcats are teetering on the edge of extinction.
At RZSS, we have been involved with Scottish wildcat conservation for over 10 years and continue to play a critical role in long term recovery efforts for this species. We believe it is vital that we protect our last remaining native cat species in Britain. It is one of the few British native predators left and performs an important ecosystem function. The wildcat has also long been part of our cultural heritage in Scotland, with many clan crests featuring this iconic felid.
Scottish Wildcat Action
RZSS was a key partner in Scottish Wildcat Action, the first national project to save the critically endangered wildcat from extinction in Scotland (following on from the successful Highland Tiger project, which RZSS was also a partner in).
This partnership project was funded by Scottish Government and Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as its 22 partners in the conservation, scientific and land management communities. The project delivered conservation action, research and education across five priority areas and has been pivotal in developing Scottish wildcat awareness and support in Scotland.
In tandem, our RZSS Wildgenes team also lead on wildcat genetic research and have demonstrated the extent of hybridisation within the wild population of wildcats in Scotland. Their paper published in December 2018 in the journal of evolutionary applications concludes that very few Scottish wildcats living in the wild meet the genetic or physical standards used to tell the difference between a wildcat and a hybrid.
Following the collection of extensive field data during the Scottish Wildcat Action project and an independent review from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Cat Specialist Group (IUCN CSG), the wild wildcat population in Scotland was (in 2019) designated as non-viable. This meant that without recovery action via reintroduction or reinforcement, the extinction of wildcats in Scotland is inevitable.
At the end of 2019, we secured a funding grant from the European Union LIFE programme to deliver a wildcat recovery project, Saving Wildcats. This European partnership project is lead by RZSS in collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry and Land Scotland, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Nordens Ark (Sweden) and Junta de Andalucia (Spain). Saving Wildcats is a multi million pound project that includes the development of Britain's first dedicated wildcat conservation breeding for release centre and aims to secure the future of wildcats through wildcat reintroductions.
Working together with the project partners, the UK’s captive breeding holders for wildcats and international specialists in species recovery, Saving Wildcats is the greatest hope for wildcats in Scotland. Find out more at savingwildcats.org.uk.
Can you save the Highland Tiger?
Without your support, we cannot secure a future for the beautiful Highland Tiger with its startling green eyes. Without your support, we could easily be the generation that witnesses yet another extinction. Without you, this symbol of wild beauty will be but a memory.