Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

800 square miles of Scottish Highlands now dedicated to saving the wildcat

A Scottish wildcat
A Scottish wildcat

A project to save the Scottish wildcat – one of the most endangered animals on the planet – now covers more than 800 square miles of its west Highland stronghold.

And ambitious plans to further extend the scheme to create a 7,000 square mile haven for wildcats were announced yesterday.

Recent estimates place the number of these cats remaining in the wild as low as 35, making it 70 times rarer than the giant panda.

A team of ecologists, wildlife experts, vets, teachers and landowners set up an organisation, called Wildcat Haven, in an attempt to save the true Scottish wildcat from extinction.

Since 2008, they have worked closely with the local community to carry out intensive feral and domestic cat neutering in a move to humanely remove the primary threat to wildcats – cross-mating or hybridisation with domestic cats.

In 2014, the group established a 250 square mile Wildcat Haven on the Ardnamurchan peninsula that was free from feral cats and feline diseases.

Last year, the threat-free region of Lochaber was increased to 500 square miles.

After neutering 100 domestic cats over the past 12 months, it has now risen to 800 miles, covering Ardnamurchan, Sunart, Morvern and Moidart.

And the group is planning to expand the area as far as Fort William and open up further haven regions in the west Highlands.

Its chief scientist Dr Paul O’Donoghue said: “We have now developed a proven template for wildcat conservation that can be rolled out across the western Highlands.

“Eight hundred square miles can home around 100 true Scottish wildcats, but our aim is a 7,000 square mile threat-free area that could hold a sustainable population and save them from extinction.

“Wildcat Haven is living proof that the Scottish wildcat can and must be saved in the wild where they belong.”

He added that the wildcat was a very capable survivor and preferred to breed with other wildcats. However, it is so outnumbered by domestic cats that hybridisation is inevitable.

He said: “This means that over a few generations, those wildcat genes are lost and you’re just left with domestic and feral cats causing big problems for prey species and themselves.”

It is now hoped that providing a large area, where the entire domestic cat population has been neutered, will allow the wildcats to begin rebuilding their population.

Already a subscriber? Sign in