The African wildcat is suffering the same barrier to survival as the Scottish wildcat. This small wild cat species has a tendency to mate with wandering domestic and feral cats. The offspring are hybrids, neither pure domestic cat nor pure wildcat. Do this often enough and you no longer have purebred African or Scottish wildcat left. That’s what happened in Scotland and it is having an impact on the conservation of the African wildcat in South Africa (SA).
When the African wildcat mates with the domestic cat it is the ancestor of the domestic cat mating with their modern domesticated counterpart.
This is where Alley Cat Rescue’s team step in. They’re in South Africa where they have sterilised and vaccinated over 1,700 free-roaming domestic and stray cats in an area around the Kruger National Park.
Wildcat extinction by hybridisation is an insidious and gradual process but just as deadly as habitat loss – Michael
I am going to guess and say that they are trapping, neutering and spaying cats just outside Kruger NP to create a buffer zone around the park to prevent purebred African wildcats from successfully mating with them when they wander out of the park.
The project was supported by the Ayers Wild Cat Conservation Fund run by Helaine and Jon Ayers.
Alley Cat Rescue also hosted some workshops at the Kruger Park Lodge in Hazyview. Participants included TNR workers from various places such as Hoedspruit, Phalaborwa, and Witbank. They were spreading the word on TNR. It seems that the process of TNR will continue in SA after they’ve gone with the intention of doing more work on wildcat conservation.
The gradual extinction of a wild cat species by hybridisation is an interesting and insidious process. The African wildcat is not threatened with extinction in the wild, yet, but clearly there are concerns.
It is believed by some experts that the Scottish wildcat is already extinct due to hybridisation. There are too many feral and wandering domestic cats in Scotland to keep the very rare Scottish wildcat safe. Arguably the authorities and those concerned with protecting the wildcat acted too late to save the species.
Source on the TNR of cats in SA: PR Newswire 5th Dec 2019.