Conserving wildcats in the Cairngorms
The Scottish wildcat is one of the Cairngorms National Park's and Scotland's most iconic and evocative mammals, yet it may be on the brink of extinction.
Following a conference, held in Aviemore in 2008, it was concluded that the main threats to the survival of the species in Scotland were: hybridisation with feral or domestic cats, being inadvertently killed during feral cat control operation and disease.
As a result, the Cairngorms Wildcat Project was set up to try and tackle these challenges. It ran from May 2009 to April 2012.
The Cairngorms National Park is a very important area for the Scottish wildcat and the Cairngorms Wildcat Project represented a great opportunity for people to work together to protect the wildcats' future.
The project raised awareness of the wildcat's plight using a campaign branded "Highland Tiger". It worked with a range of partners and interest groups to safeguard surviving Scottish wildcat populations and create favourable conditions for the species to thrive in the future.
Part of the project was aimed at assisting gamekeepers to confidently identify wildcats to ensure they are not inadvertently culled through otherwise legal predator control activities. The project also worked with vets and cat welfare charities to encourage responsible cat ownership and the expansion of feral cat trapping and neutering.
Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA).
- To secure the future of the Scottish wildcat within the Cairngorms National Park, leading to further action across a wider area of Scotland
- To raise awareness of the plight of the Scottish wildcat
- To promote public support for wildcat conservation measures
Results and outputs
- Very considerable national and international media interest in both wildcat and its conservation
- Face-to-face presentations in communities around the CNPA, amounting to an audience size of over 2,200 people
- Much-improved public awareness - the Scottish wildcat is now in the top three species about whose conservation the Scottish public is most concerned
- Around £50,000 was raised by public donations for the RZSS' Highland Tiger Fund for wildcat conservation in the Cairngorms National Park
- 465 records of potential Scottish wildcats were submitted by the public to the Project
- 50 roadkill carcases were collected for much-needed analysis following tip-offs from the public
- The discovery, using camera traps, of previously unknown Scottish wildcat populations in the Park
- An increase in the number of local groups and volunteers involved in trapping and neutering feral cats in the Park
- A steep increase in the number of feral cats neutered in the Park
- Positive engagement with, and contributions from, the gamekeeping profession about saving this native predator
- Improved confidence in wildcat identification amongst the gamekeeping profession.
- The adoption by gamekeepers of wildcat-friendly changes to predator control activities
- Final Report published
Crucially, Scottish wildcat conservation work hasn't stopped. On-the-ground research and conservation of wildcats, both within and outwith the Cairngorms National Park, is continuing under the Highland Tiger banner via partner organisations. You can find out more about wildcat conservation in the Cairngorms National Park, including who to contact, at the Highland Tiger website.