News roundup on the rewilding in the UK of wildcats

There appears to be a concerted effort to rewild the UK with the wildcat which is probably extinct throughout the UK although some think that the wildcat is still present in very small numbers (400?) but others think those cats are wildcat x domestic/feral cat hybrids and the wildcat is extinct in the UK. Anyway it is nice to see some serious initiatives to rewild the UK. The last wildcat in England was possibly shot by a landowner in 1835 in the far south.

Scottish wildcat in the highlands of Scotland
Scottish wildcat in the highlands of Scotland
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Here’s a roundup of the latest news on wild cats:

  • Wildcats in England: There’s an initiative by the Wildwood Trust to reintroduce wildcats to England after 200 years. They plan to start a breeding project and are currently looking for a suitable release site.
  • Scottish Wildcats: Scientists are employing genomic techniques to save Scottish wildcats, which are critically endangered due to interbreeding with domestic cats. The process aims to separate wildcat genes from those of domestic cats to restore the original wildcat population.
  • Captive-bred Release: Nearly 20 young wildcats have been released into the wild in the Scottish Highlands as part of a project to prevent the species from extinction in the UK.
  • Cairngorms Release: A licence has been approved for the release of captive-bred Scottish wildcats in the Cairngorms National Park, with the first trial releases planned for June.

These efforts highlight the ongoing conservation work to protect and restore wild cat populations in various regions.

More about the Scottish wildcats project

The Scottish Wildcats conservation project, known as Saving Wildcats, is a critical initiative aimed at preventing the extinction of wildcats in Scotland, often referred to as the “Highland Tiger.” Here are some key aspects of the project:

  • Conservation Breeding Centre: The project has established Britain’s first large-scale conservation breeding centre for wildcats at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park in the Cairngorms National Park. This centre is equipped with a dedicated veterinary unit and a specialized pre-release training program to prepare wildcats for life in the wild.
  • Breeding and Release: The goal is to grow the wildcat population through the release of wildcats into the wild. Each year, about 20 wildcats, after undergoing a pre-release training program, are planned to be released, potentially within the Cairngorms National Park. These wildcats will be fitted with GPS collars to monitor their movements and behavior.
  • Threat Mitigation: The project also works on removing threats facing wildcats in the Highlands to create other safe areas for future reintroductions. This includes addressing issues like habitat loss, persecution, and interbreeding with domestic cats.
  • Community Engagement: An important part of Saving Wildcats is working with local communities to understand how people can benefit from the presence of wildcats, potentially through wildlife tourism and supporting long-term employment.

This comprehensive approach combines ex-situ and in-situ conservation strategies to ensure the survival and recovery of the Scottish wildcat population.

RELATED: Information about the hybridisation of the Scottish wildcat

What is the difference between a Scottish wildcat and a domesticated cat?

Scottish wildcats, also known as Felis silvestris silvestris, are distinct from domesticated cats in several ways:

  • Size and Build: Wildcats are generally larger and heavier than most domestic cats, with longer limb bones and a more robust skull.
  • Coat Pattern: They have distinctive stripes on their cheeks and hind legs, and lack the spots, white markings, and colored backs of the ears that are often seen in domestic cats.
  • Tail: Wildcats have a thick tail with black rings, which is quite different from the tails of most domestic cats.
  • Behavior: Wildcats are more elusive and less friendly compared to domestic cats, which have been bred for companionship.
  • Genetics: While domestic cats have undergone changes in certain genes due to natural selection during domestication, wildcats have remained genetically closer to their original wild ancestors.

These differences are a result of the separate evolutionary paths that wild and domestic cats have taken, with domestic cats being selectively bred for traits that are advantageous for living alongside humans.

More about the Cairngorms release of Scottish wildcats project

The Cairngorms release of Scottish wildcats is a significant conservation effort led by the Saving Wildcats project. Here are some key points about the project:

  • Historic Release: On June 15, 2023, the project reached a historic milestone by releasing 22 wildcats into undisclosed locations within the Cairngorms National Park. This marks the first-ever conservation translocation of wildcats in Britain.
  • Project Partnerships: The project is a partnership led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and involves collaboration with local communities and various organizations to ensure the success of the reintroduction.
  • Monitoring: The released wildcats are carefully monitored using GPS-radio collars to track their movements and adaptability to the wild environment.
  • Long-term Plan: Approximately sixty wildcats will be released over the next three years, with the aim of restoring Scotland’s critically endangered wildcat population.
  • Community Engagement: The project has undertaken extensive engagement with local communities to garner support and ensure the wildcats are given the best chance to survive and thrive in their new home.

This project is a part of a broader effort to reverse the dramatic losses in nature and protect Scotland’s native species, contributing to the restoration of the natural environment and the animals that depend on it.

Was the last wildcat in England shot by a landowner in 1835?

The last wildcat in England was shot a long time ago, but the exact year varies according to different sources. One account states that the last wildcat living in England was shot by a landowner in 1835 in the south. Another source mentions that the last one recorded in northern England was shot in 1849. These events mark the unfortunate decline of wildcats in England, leading to their absence in the region for many years until recent reintroduction efforts.

RELATED: History of the domestic cat living side by side with the wildcat in Britain (and Northern Europe)

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