New charity launched to save iconic wildcat from extinction
veteran naturalist and cat-watcher mike tomkies is named as patron
By Morag Lindsay
A charity has been set up to conserve one of Scotland’s iconic and endangered species.
The Scottish Wildcat Association has been formed by a group of film-makers, writers, sculptors and photographers committed to keeping alive the surviving population. There are fewer than 400 left in the wild.
The patron of the SWA is a veteran naturalist who has done more than most to bring the plight of the wildcat to wider public attention.
Mike Tomkies spent over a decade studying them in their habitat in the Highlands before publishing two accounts of his extraordinary encounters in the 1970s.
The books, My Wilderness Wildcats and Liane, A Cat from the Wild, are now being reprinted in a single edition by Caithness-based Whittles Publishing. A share of the profits will go to the SWA.
Mr Tomkies says the wildcat appeals to the free spirit in everyone.
“They're shy, they're clever, they move silently and they would fight to the death for their freedom. They epitomise what it takes to be truly free, I think.
“Wildcat remains were found in Scotland in Pleistocene deposits over 2million years old.
“They co-existed with the mammoth, the lynx and the wolf. They are gone now, but the wildcat is clinging on and we must protect it.”
Others signed up to the SWA include bronze sculptor David Mayer, who has made a stunning Scottish wildcat piece as a limited edition, and wildlife photographers Laurie Campbell and Peter Cairns, whose work is on the SWA website and will soon be available for sale.
The impetus for the new charity was the release of the documentary film, Last of the Scottish Wildcats, in 2007. Made on a tiny budget by the award-winning British company, Coffee Films, it is only the second complete film on the species and includes new wild footage and in-depth investigation of the threats facing the wildcat. The film is available on DVD, with Coffee Films pledging 50% of the profits to the SWA.
Director and producer Steve Piper said public awareness was essential. “The greatest threat to the wildcat is very few people outside of the Highlands realise they’re even there — and only handfuls of them understand the threats to the wildcat or how to help. Fortunately, communication is exactly what creative artists spend their whole life doing.” For more information visit www.scottishwildcats.co.uk
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org