Scottish Wildcat Action
RZSS is a key partner in Scottish Wildcat Action, the first national project to save the highly endangered Scottish wildcat from extinction (following on from the successful Highland Tiger project, which RZSS was also a partner in). We want to protect our last remaining native cat species in Britain because it is one of few predators left and performs an important function in a healthy ecosystem. It has also long been part of our cultural heritage in Scotland, with many clan crests featuring the iconic cat.
The project is funded by Scottish Government and Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as its 22 partners in the conservation, scientific and land management communities. Scottish Wildcat Action aims to restore viable populations of Scottish wildcats in the Scottish Highlands, which are coming under threat from hybridisation with feral domestic cats, disease and accidental persecution. We will work across Scotland to both reduce threats in the wild and breed wildcats for later release.
The two main programmes of work are:
Wildcat priority areas
There are five identified wildcat priority areas in the Scottish Highlands. These are Morvern, Strathpeffer, Strathbogie, Northern Strathspey and the Angus Glens. Scottish Wildcat Action staff and volunteers carry out work in situ within these areas, including an extensive Trap Neuter Vaccinate and Release programme (TNVR). TNVR humanely traps feral cats and hybrids (those with mixed wildcat and domestic cat ancestry), neuters and vaccinates them, then releases them back into the wild. This helps the wildcats that remain to breed only with other wildcats and reduces the risk of disease transmission between the species.
Conservation breeding for release
Scottish Wildcat Action also involves a comprehensive conservation breeding for release programme, led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park. RZSS staff will be working closely with land managers and communities across Scotland to find suitable wildcats that will act as the foundation for a robust and viable captive population. These animals will be housed in large-scale, natural enclosures at the Park (and in various partner locations) away from public view, and the cats’ natural, wild behaviours will be encouraged to both increase the chances of breeding success and prepare cats for future release.
For more information about the project and to get involved in the action, visit scottishwildcataction.org