Sunday, 24 June 2018

Can Scotland save its wildcats from extinction?

The secretive mammals are fast disappearing from the Highlands but last-ditch efforts to save them are fraught with challenges

Fri 15 Jun 2018 16.52 BSTLast modified on Fri 15 Jun 2018 22.00 BST

Set deep in mixed woodland of Scots pine and birch, near the banks of the river Beauly in Inverness-shire, several huge, concealed pens contain two breeding pairs of Scottish wildcat.

Wildcats mate from January to March, and their high, anguished breeding calls through the dark winter nights are thought to have inspired tales of the Cat Sith, a spectral feline of Celtic legend that was believed to haunt the Highlands.

“It is a cry that carries over quite a distance and it is spine-chilling if you hear it in the middle of the night,” says Sir John Lister-Kaye, renowned nature writer and director of the Aigas Field Centre. The former Victorian sporting estate, which now offers conservation holidays and environmental education, is one of 20 sites currently participating in a conservation breeding programme led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS).

“I’m sure that if there were other wildcats nearby they would have been attracted to the calls. But since we started in 2011 we’ve had foxes, pine martins, badgers, one or two domestic cats come and have a look – but not a single wildcat anywhere near.”

The Scottish wildcat is now one of the most critically endangered wild mammals native to the UK, according to a comprehensive analysis by the Mammal Society released earlier this week, which estimated the population at 200 but accepts that the figure may be significantly lower.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You only need to enter your comment once! Comments will appear once they have been moderated. This is so as to stop the would-be comedian who has been spamming the comments here with inane and often offensive remarks. You know who you are!

Related Posts with Thumbnails