‘This is last chance for the Scottish wildcat’

Conservationists battling to save the Scottish wildcat say a remote area in the north-west Highlands presents the only chance for the species’ survival.

The Highland tiger is one of the world’s most endangered animals. Experts estimate there may be only 35 pure-bred individuals left. This compares with fewer than 2,500 wild Bengal tigers and makes the wildcat 70 times rarer than the giant panda.

The Ardnamurchan peninsula, which has some of Scotland’s wildest landscapes and few human residents, has been identified as a sanctuary. The Wildcat Haven Project aims to protect the species by catching and neutering feral and hybrid wildcats in the area to prevent them breeding with pure wildcats.

Geneticist Paul O’Donoghue, from Chester University, the scientific adviser to the project, said: Feral cats are the biggest danger to the future of the Scottish wildcat. They interbreed and you end up with hybrids of varying degrees.

The aim is to reduce and eventually remove the feral cat population from this area. We want to catch all the feral cats, neuter them and put them back where we found them, and eventually the population will die out over time.

Dr O’Donoghue and Kent-based charity the Aspinall Foundation took over the project from the Scottish Wildcat Association (SWA) last year — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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