Plan launched to save Scotland’s wildcats24/09/2013 16:22:16 Captive breeding and targeting feral cats
September 2013. A new action plan to reverse the decline of the Scottish wildcat within six years has been launched by Scottish Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse. It sets out for the first time a package of measures that a range of land managers, conservationists, and researchers agree has the best prospect for the ‘Highland Tiger.'
Prevent cross breeding
The aim is to conserve Scottish wildcats by reducing the chances of cross breeding with domestic and feral cats and by lowering the risk to wildcats from feline diseases. Efforts will be targeted in areas which support the most viable wildcat populations. And a conservation breeding programme will be set up to reinforce wild populations in the future. Scientists will also carry out further research to improve understanding of wildcat ecology and genetics.
Feral cats are a major huiscance for wildlife, and in America research has shown that they kill some 2.4 billion birds and as many as 12 billion mammals every year in the USA, and have been responsible for the extinction of 33 species.
Why release these pests back into the wild in Scotland, to predate on native wildlife?
The scale of coordinating trapping, neutering and vaccination of feral cats and hybrids has not previously been attempted on such a scale in Scotland.
Speaking before the launch in Edinburgh, Mr Wheelhouse said: "The Scottish wildcat is an iconic species that is emblematic of the wild parts of Scotland. As a society we have a legal and moral obligation to try and conserve the species, so that it continues to be part of our natural heritage for generations to come.
By 2019 the partnership project aims to have:
"The Scottish Wildcat Action Plan builds on the good work already undertaken and existing expertise and understanding of the Scottish wildcat. The success of the plan will depend not just on the project partners but on the uptake by individuals, such as gamekeepers, farmers, and, crucially, we will rely heavily on the assistance of Scotland's cat owners in preventing hybridisation of the species."
Response from Scottish Wildcat Association
A response to the Scottish Government / SNH Wildcat Action Plan from founder and former chairman of the Scottish Wildcat Association, and former member of the SNH Wildcat Action Plan Group, Steve Piper.
News that £2m is to be spent on Scottish wildcats should be a cause for celebration, but the devil is in the detail and there's not much of that in the Scottish Government's wildcat action plan.
Ron Macdonald, SNH's head of policy and advice, stressed: "We at Scottish Natural Heritage have coordinated this plan and we will work closely with the Scottish Government and our partners to monitor its effectiveness. This is an effective partnership of many quite separate organisations who represent a range of interests.
"We are all committed to conserving this rare and elusive species. And though we do not currently have reliable estimates for the number of wildcats remaining in the wild, everyone agrees there is now some urgency to address the threats they face. We recognise this, and work is already underway to identify the wildcat priority areas and to find out more about the genetic make-up of wild-living cat populations."
Well-known wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan, who captured remote camera images of tigers living in the Himalayas for the BBC series Lost Land of the Tiger, has yet to film Scottish wildcats in the wild.
Backing the scheme, he said: "I have spent time in the Scottish Highlands trying to catch a glimpse of this elusive and fascinating predator, and I would like to add my voice to the chorus saying that we need to do all we can to preserve our native wildcats. It is heartening to see the new efforts to save this creature which deserves its place in the pantheon of Scottish species."
Scottish Wildcat - Courtesy of the Scottish Wildcat Association