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Wildcat campaigners raise more than £35,000 towards legal fight to protect Clashindarroch Forest

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More than £35,000 has been raised towards a legal fight to stop logging in a forest used by critically endangered wildcats.

The Wildcat Haven group claims a third of the entire Scottish wildcat population could be present in the Clashindarroch Forest, near Huntly.

They say the animals are threatened from tree felling by Forestry and Land Scotland, and the construction of a wind farm.

The group launched an appeal to cover the cost of challenging the works last month, with more than 1,500 people pledging more than £35,000 towards the cause on crowdjustice.com

More than 563,000 people have also signed an online petition calling on the Scottish Government to halt the logging.

Wildcats, also known as the Highland tiger, are facing extinction due to hybridisation with feral and domestic cats, persecution and disease.

Wildcat Haven believe Clashindarroch Forest is the “last and only known major stronghold and breeding site” for the species.

The money raised will go to the project’s legal team to fight what they describe as the “extensive commercial exploitation” of the forest.

Paul O’Donoghue, the group’s chief scientific adviser, said: “A huge threat facing wildcats is habitat loss, and nowhere is this clearer than Clashindarroch Forest.

“At least 13 wildcats live in this forest; that’s the largest single population known to exist and could represent as much as a third of the surviving population.

“Clashindarroch must be protected. Without it there is little evidence that the wildcat can avoid extinction.”

Wildcat Haven say legal action could enforce national and international protections of the wildcat and establish special designation for the site so the forest can be conserved indefinitely.

The appeal has exceeded its initial £7,500 target, although it the project hopes to raise up to £100,000 in total – with any cash leftover going directly to the group’s work to protect wildcats.

A spokesman for Forestry and Land Scotland said: “Once again, this interest group is making unsubstantiated and unqualified claims about the impact of forest management on wildcats in Clashindarroch.

“Clashindarroch is a productive forest and is managed sustainably to internationally recognised standards.

“We manage it to maintain a structurally diverse habitat that supports a very significant amount of biodiversity, whilst also enabling the forest to fulfil its other varied roles including supplying high quality timber. An important part of our stewardship involves carrying out a huge range of actions to conserve wildcats and other important species such as red squirrels, woodland grouse and birds of prey.

“We have a comprehensive blog and film on our website that will help explain how forest management is beneficial for Scottish wildcats.”

He said it was “heartening” that so many people had a keen interest in wildcat conservation, adding: “The protection and conservation of the Scottish wildcat is something we feel strongly about too.”

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