The Scottish wildcat is practically extinct

The Scottish wildcat is on the verge of extinction due to habitat destruction, interbreeding with other species and disease, as reported by NatureScot

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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The Scottish wildcat is practically extinct

The Scottish wildcat is on the verge of extinction due to habitat destruction, interbreeding with other species and disease, as reported by NatureScot. Most living wildcats are hybrids, the result of breeding with feral or domestic cats, therefore the pure Scottish wildcat is functionally extinct and there are too few specimens for the population to be viable.

Last month a license was approved for the release of captive-bred Scottish wildcats in the Cairngorms National Park by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. In a series of new reports, the project team has made recommendations on how to try to save the species.

Experts suggest the release of captive-bred feral cats in certain places, along with efforts to sterilize hybrid and feral cats and improve habitats. Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater has regretted that the very existence of an iconic and much loved species is under threat, reiterating the Government's commitment to protect and restore Scotland's natural habitat.

The Scottish wildcat is practically extinct: the bad news about the species

Helen Senn, head of conservation at the RZSS, explained: 'These reports show that feral cats are indeed on the verge of extinction in Britain and that a significant amount of work still needs to be done to ensure a future for the feral cat population.

Scots." Roo Campbell, NatureScot's mammal advisor, said the five-year project was just the beginning of a journey to restore Scotland's wildcat population: 'We hope we can achieve this by working together now to protect and restore this species iconic for generations to come." Researchers said they found no recent evidence of feral cats from public sightings, camera trap surveys or road-killing cats in the Highlands, north of Lairg, Sutherland.

There is also scant evidence of feral cats alive in Argyll and the Trossachs. Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project said it was likely that feral cats, feral cat hybrids and housecats mated freely with each other for many generations from the 1960s onwards, thus creating a hybrid swarm.