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Cairngorms Wildcat Project scoops prestigious ‘Nature of Scotland’ award

31st October 2013

The Cairngorms Wildcat Project is celebrating this morning after a successful night at the ‘Nature of Scotland’ awards.

Held last night (30th October) in Edinburgh, the Cairngorms Wildcat Project won the innovation award having impressed the judging panel with their work to bring land managers and conservationists together to gather vital information to better understand the species and raise awareness of their plight. The project was also shortlisted for the Species Champion Award.

The Nature of Scotland awards were launched by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in 2012 to recognise excellence, innovation and outstanding nature conservation in Scotland.

The Cairngorms Wildcat Project was launched in 2009 to protect the wildcat’s future in the Cairngorms National Park and raise awareness of the species’ plight. The iconic Scottish species is threatened by hybridisation with domestic cats, and the confusion in cat identification that this creates in the countryside. It is now rarer than the Bengal tiger with fewer than 400 thought to be left in the wild.

The project, which concluded last year, worked with gamekeepers to help them to identify wildcats in the field to ensure their predator control was wildcat-friendly. It also worked with local vets and cat welfare charities to encourage responsible cat ownership and neutering of feral cats.

Camera trapping also revealed wildcats on estates where they were not thought to live, while the public was able to report sightings and make donations to the project.

Will Boyd-Wallis, the Cairngorms National Park Authority’s Head of Land Management & Conservation and Chair of the Wildcat Project, said the awards were the result of commitment from all partners.

“We’re delighted to have received this recognition and it is particularly special to win it in the Park’s 10th anniversary year. When we began the Cairngorms Wildcat Project we always knew it had to be the start of something bigger if we are to save the Scottish wildcat from extinction. The lessons learned from the project were both invaluable and influential in shaping the new national Conservation Action Plan for the species. The award is further proof that there is broad support for saving this fascinating species.

“Through the fantastic support of the estates, gamekeepers, farmers, vets and cat welfare volunteers in the National Park, as well as the joint effort of all the project partners, we have achieved a great deal. The future of the wildcat is still far from certain, but the award demonstrates this is a model conservation project that could be applied to wildcat conservation in other parts of Scotland and beyond.”

Director of RSPB Scotland Stuart Housden OBE, who was also one of the judges, said: “Scotland is renowned worldwide for its beautiful wild places and abundant wildlife. We must work hard to preserve this precious natural heritage, celebrating success stories and protecting that which is under real threat. The Cairngorms Wildcat Project is a perfect example of such a success story, it was innovative in its approach and has provided a unique insight into one of Britain’s most endangered and mysterious species”