Published Date: 21 April 2009
By JOHN ROSS
A CHARITY was launched yesterday to help save the Scottish wildcat amid fears it might be extinct in five years.
The Scottish Wildcat Association (SWA) has been registered as a charity dedicated to protecting the predator whose numbers, it claims, have dropped to fewer than 400. The group attacked Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), which it said has been "paralysed by inertia", despite an action plan being launched to save the cats five years ago.
The wildcat was once widespread throughout Europe, Asia and Africa but is now extinct in many countries. Its decline in Britain began in the early 1800s and it disappeared from England and Wales by 1862, leaving Scotland as its last mainland stronghold. The population is said to have been depleted by hybridisation with feral domestic cats, disease, predator control and capture, and the degradation of its natural habitat.
In February 2008, the Scottish Government launched the first full survey for 20 years on the number and health of the wildcat. The previous full survey, between 1983 and 1987, found the species was restricted to an area north of the Central Belt.
Later research estimated there were 3,500 animals aged more than five months across Scotland. In April 2008, the Cairngorms National Park set up a conservation project to help save the wildcat there.
An SNH spokesman said nearly £200,000 has been spent over the past two years on wildcats projects.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org