Scottish Wildcat Action (SWA) and the Mammal Society are asking for people’s help in conserving our Scottish wildcats on National Cat Day which (Saturday 29 October), during National Mammal Week.
These animals are one of the UK’s most endangered species with only around 300 individuals thought to survive in the wild.
Building on the success of the recent addition to the Scottish Wildcat Action website and the free Mammal Tracker App, people can continue to help track these charismatic animals.
Scottish Wildcat Action is a national conservation effort to save the critically endangered Scottish wildcat and launched in 2015. It is led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and comprises a partnership of 20 organisations.
The new addition to the Scottish Wildcat Action website allows people in Scotland to report sightings of wildcats, hybrids and feral cats via an online form. Sightings can also be reported using the Mammal Society’s Mammal Tracker App. Once verified, the sightings are displayed at low resolution on a map of Scotland.
SWA is a five-year project working on six wildcat priority areas outlined in the national action plan. The Scottish Wildcat Action Steering Group comprises Scottish Natural Heritage; Forestry Commission Scotland; Cairngorms National Park Authority; National Museums Scotland; Royal Zoological Society of Scotland; Scottish Gamekeepers Association; Scottish Wildlife Trust; National Trust for Scotland and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies – Edinburgh University.
The species’ conservation is an important feature of the Scottish Government’s 2020 Biodiversity Challenge.
Derek Crawley, Atlas officer for the Mammal Society, said: “Since we have altered the Mammal Tracker App to include options for recording wild living cats in Scotland, we have seen a 69% increase in iOS app downloads, and a noticeable increase in wild-living cat recordings. We want to continue this momentum and keep up the good work.
“One of the most important messages from this week’s National Mammal Week is how important mammal records are for mammal conservation. It is great to see the public responding to this message and making such a difference to wildcat conservation.”
Dr Roo Campbell of SNH and project manager for Scottish Wildcat Action, said: “This new function on our website is a great way to show where there have been reliable sightings of Scottish wildcats. We have already had 13 reports of wildcat that we were able to verify and add to our map, along with 52 hybrid cat and 12 feral cat sightings.
“For example two of our most recent sightings were of a wildcat and an obvious hybrid in the same glen in the Angus Glens Wildcat Priority Area. There is a risk that these cats will interbreed. The new information from the app is already helping us prioritise our cat neutering this winter.”
“The Scottish wildcat is a distinct form of the European wildcat since it has been isolated from the continent since the English Channel formed after the last ice age.”
The species is an important indicator in the 2020 Biodiversity Challenge outcome of ‘clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse’ coasts and seas.
In contrast the 100,000 feral cats living in the wild are descended from cats domesticated from the African wildcat living in the Near East. All domestic cats, but particularly feral cats, threaten the survival of wildcats by transmitting disease. They also dilute the gene-pool as they breed with wildcats.