The Scottish wildcat is going extinct: an irreplaceable feature of our natural and cultural heritage, and our only surviving native feline, it has survived centuries of intense deforestation and persecution. It is losing the battle to hybridisation: cross-mating with feral domestic cats, which outnumber wildcats by 1000:1 across the Highlands.
There may only be 35 pure Scottish wildcats left, which face an impossible task finding each other to produce the next generation. There are over 1,000 giant pandas in the world, 3,000 tigers, 20,000 polar bears: our wildcats need immediate help, and Wildcat Haven is delivering it:
250 square miles of remote habitat and expanding
All feral cats and low-grade hybrids neutered
All pet cats neutered and inoculated
Free of feline diseases
Protected by geography and a feral cat buffer zone
Ongoing genetics, disease and habitat research
Widely supported by the local community
Local schools education programs underway
We're close to this sign becoming a reality...
Over the last ten years statutory agencies have spent half a million pounds of public money talking about saving the wildcat, whilst over the last five years Wildcat Haven has spent less than £100,000 of grants and donations from the US, China, commercial sponsors and the international general public creating a vast, threat-free haven where the Scottish wildcat can thrive again.
This is the only chance that the pure wildcat has, and over the next five years we will expand to over 800 square miles and start bringing the true wildcat back.
These cats matter: evolved by nature for millions of years to fit perfectly into our ecology, we are losing them to apathy, indecision and irresponsible ownership of pet cats: a species that heavily over-populates putting intense pressure on native species and greatly damaging the environment.
Wildcat Haven isn't an idea, a discussion, or eternal research which never gets applied in the field; it is the only comprehensive, active and successful conservation effort for the genetically pure Scottish wildcat; we aren't seeking the best route for conserving the wildcat, we're already taking it.
15/07/2014 2013/2014 Fieldwork Results
Our winter fieldwork season wrapped up having confirmed that all pet cats in the Haven are now neutered, inoculated, microchipped and health checked, and more importantly, it appears that all of the feral cats have also been neutered. The only ferals trapped this year are ones we already know, our cameras and field teams spotted no new kittens and had the same feedback from local welfare charities, feral feeders, crofters, farmers and gamekeepers. We are still monitoring to be certain, but this will mean that Wildcat Haven is now hybridisation free and feline disease free, with a highly supportive local human population and a multitude of projects looking at reforesting.
Many thought it was impossible to clear feral cats from such a large region, especially utilising a humane, neutering based approach, but it appears to have been done successfully and at a low cost by a team working just six months of the year through winter. With the hypothesis becoming reality, over the next five years we plan to establish a full time team of rangers in the Haven and expand to over 800 square miles: it's time to bring the pure Scottish wildcat back!