The critically endangered Scottish wildcats are being given a chance at survival through a new initiative.
The Saving Wildcats project has commenced releasing 22 cats bred in captivity into the Cairngorms, the UK’s largest national park. This marks the first of several trial releases at undisclosed locations within the park.
The species had been deemed “functionally extinct” in the wild based on previous research, mainly due to interbreeding with feral cats, along with the impacts of diseases and habitat loss.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) is leading the Saving Wildcats partnership, which plans to monitor the released wildcats using GPS-radio collars. Over the next three years, approximately 60 wildcats will be released as part of this conservation effort.
Saving Wildcat’s David Field: “The time is now to give the ‘Highland Tiger’ the best chance of survival and I am thankful for the work of our team members, partners and supporters in making this happen.
“I am also particularly grateful for the support of our local community in the Cairngorms as, without their engagement, we would not have reached this exciting milestone.”
This significant project has received approval from NatureScot and represents the first-ever conservation translocation of wildcats in Britain. The initiative has garnered support from various organisations, including the Cairngorms National Park Authority and Forestry and Land Scotland.
She said: “Reversing the dramatic losses in nature that we have seen in recent times is one of the defining challenges that our country faces.
“The Scottish government remains committed to this fight and is actively working towards protecting and restoring our natural environment and the animals that rely upon it.”
Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater acknowledged the beloved status of wildcats as a native species in Scotland but stressed that their existence is under serious threat. The hope is that through this project, the population of Scottish wildcats can be stabilised and given a chance to recover in their natural habitat.
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