Wildcats are a secretive and elusive species of feline living in very small pockets of land of the Scottish Highlands, also affectionately known as the Highland Tiger.
Edge of Extinction
Once known as the Scottish Wildcat, this species is thought to be functionally extinct in the wild, it is estimated that less than 50 wildcats remain. They once roamed throughout Scotland, but now are forced to live in small fragmented areas of habitat due to habitat destruction. As the human population increased and encroached into their habitat there was the introduction of the domestic cat. This introduction has caused the greatest decline to the wildcat population through hybridisation which has resulted in the dilution of genetics.
Why are Wildcats important?
Wildcats are important to the ecosystem, they are a carnivore and therefore hunt rabbits and other small mammals. This is an important ecological role, helping to control the number of small and medium sized prey items. If these prey items were uncontrolled they would have a negative effect on the landscape, changing the structure and biodiversity.
What’s the plan?
There are so few in the wild now that captive breeding is their only chance of survival. A huge project has been started, led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, and supported by many zoos in the UK. The aim of the project is to identify the cats in captivity with the best genetics for a breeding programme, build a semi wild enclosure in the highlands for a soft release site for the young, before releasing them back into the wild. Work with local communities and land owners is already moving forward with positive results.
A neutering programme has been offered to cat owners in Scotland and feral cats have been caught and neutered, with the aim of reducing their population and chance of breeding with the Wildcat.
People are encouraged to report any sightings of a Wildcat, this is to help scientists and researchers fully understand their geographic range. However identifying a wildcat can be very difficult as the pelage or coat of the wildcat is very similar to the domestic cat, with only a few subtle differences.
Here at Wild Discovery we hold two male wildcats, both with strong wildcat genetics. These males could be chosen to breed in the future. We take great care in keeping these cats physically and mentally healthy by providing them with an environment similar to the wild. By doing this it will help the pass on the genes necessary for future offspring to have the best chance of survival in the wild. A proportion of the funds that we raise throughout the year through our #wildconservation campaigns and activities will be donated to the project to help support the captive breeding programme and hopefully see these elusive cats returned back to the Highlands.
How can you help?
Spread the word about this species and the extinction crisis that it is facing. More people that know the reasons why the species is facing extinction the more we can do to help save the species.
Buy one of our #wildconservation wristbands from the gift shop, 100% of the proceeds go directly to the conservation projects.
Or make a small donation you can pop some spare change in the conservation projects box situated in the Gift Shop. For larger donations please contact the Zoo Director at email@example.com.
Royal Zoological Society of Scotland https://www.rzss.org.uk/conservation/our-projects/project-search/zoo-based/scottish-wildcats/
Scottish Wildcat Action http://www.scottishwildcataction.org/