Scottish Wildcat Action

Scottish Wildcat Action (SWA) is the first national conservation plan for the Scottish wildcat, and involves more than 20 partner organisations from Scotland and across the wider UK. I have worked as a Project Officer for SWA since it began in April 2015. While I do continue to work for SWA, this Fellowship is an independent endeavour and this is a personal blog, so all view and opinions expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent those of SWA or the partner organisations.

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Successfully GPS collaring a high-scoring ‘wildcat’ in Morvern (in collaboration with WildCRU and Dr Kerry Kilshaw, University of Oxford)

Where does SWA work?

Scottish Wildcat Action comprises two complimentary programmes of work: in-situ conservation of wild populations in wildcat Priority Areas (shown in the map below) led by Scottish Natural Heritage, and ex-situ conservation breeding led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

The SWA wildcat Priority Areas for in-situ conservation, from left to right: Morvern, Strathpeffer, Strathspey, Angus Glens, and Strathbogie.

In-situ conservation

I work as a Project Officer for the in-situ conservation side of SWA covering two of the five Priority Areas (Morvern and Strathspey, and I used to cover Strathpeffer). The original aim of the in-situ work was to halt the decline of wildcats within Priority Areas within 5 years by conducting conservation actions, including: 1) Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return of feral domestic cats, 2) reducing direct risks to wildcats through land management practices (for example, forestry operations or direct killing during predator control activities) through education and training, and 3) encouraging responsible cat ownership in and around wildcat areas. We also carry out extensive large-scale camera trap surveys with local volunteers to monitor wild-living cat populations. Here are a selection of photos showing some of our TNVR work (with permission from SWA):

Wildcat populations in Scotland

After 3 years of extensive camera-trap surveys within the Priority Areas, coupled with evidence from sightings of live cats and roadkill samples from all over the north of Scotland, the SWA project team had found very few potential ‘wildcats’.

A recent independent review of Scottish Wildcat Action data by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Cat Specialist Group (IUCN CSG) concluded that populations of Scottish wildcat were no longer viable and require reinforcement from a conservation breeding programme. The report can be read here:

The thoughts, observations and opinions expressed in this personal Blog are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of Scottish Wildcat Action or its partner organisations.