A scientist who has developed a genetic test to identify pure Scottish wildcats has warned that the species could be extinct within two years.
BBC NEWS ARE REPORTING THAT SCOTTISH WILDCATS ARE ON THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION
A team from the Scottish Wildcat Association (SWA) reviewed 2,000 confirmed sightings, SWA said the analysis suggested there could be 35 wildcats – far fewer than previously thought.
Other research has estimated that there could be less than 400 pure-bred cats.
Last month, a report on a project funded by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) estimated that there were 150 breeding pairs left.
Disease and inter-breeding are the two main threats to numbers of pure-bred wildcats.
Of the 2,000 records of hybrids and wildcats looked at by the SWA team less than 20 were deemed to comply with the accepted coat-marking identifiers of the true wildcat.
With an estimated 3,500 hybrids in Scotland the SWA said this would mean there were just 35 wildcats remaining.
SWA chairman Steve Piper said:
“However you juggle the figures it’s hard to find anything positive.
“If you ignore the eyewitness sightings because they’re unreliable the numbers get even worse.
“Even if you decide the population of hybrids is larger you have to multiply it to impossible levels to get to the commonly quoted figure of 400 wildcats.
“The overwhelming evidence is that the wildcat is going to be extinct within months, anything else is blind hope.”
Scottish wildcat conservation project Highland Tiger has created this official introductory film explaining the issues faced by the Scottish wildcat and what can be done to help these amazing animals.
Two newborn wildcat kittens have been named after the new Disney/Pixar film.
They have been settling into their new home and are already practicing their pouncing skills.
Parents, five-year-old Seasaidh and eight-year-old Hamish have been kept busy running after the new arrivals.
Una Richardson, head keeper at the Highland Wildlife Park, said: “It is an exciting time for the Highland Wildlife Park, as we welcomed the arrival of our twin Scottish wildcat kittens, meaning we now have six Scottish wildcats in total.
“Twins ‘Brave’ and ‘Merida’, have become quite bold and are often seen exploring their enclosure and running along an overhead walkway. We think these little kittens are well suited to their names. As brother and sister they love nothing more than to play with each other, although I would say our male kitten is definitely the bossier twin!
“As there are thought to be less than 400 Scottish wildcats left in the Highlands, these cats are incredibly rare and endangered so this is a huge milestone for this species and the park. Merida and Brave are the latest kittens of successful breeding pair Seasaidh and Hamish, the kittens will play a vital role in the conservation of this historic Scottish species along with increasing visitor awareness of the problems facing this most iconic Scottish animal.”
Scottish wildcats are one of Britain’s rarest animals with just 400 left in the UK.