The Scottish Wildlife Trust is a lead partner in the pioneering Scottish Wildcat Action project. Below is a joint statement in response to a press release issued by Wildcat Haven.
Eileen Stuart, head of policy and advice at Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), said: “We at Scottish Wildcat Action (SWA) are once again dismayed at the latest statement produced by Wildcat Haven on 12 April 2016. We have a Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan which has been published and been developed by experts in their fields.
Wildcat Haven’s actions misrepresent the progress we have made in the conservation of Scottish wildcat. To be able to work with them, we need them to produce evidence and information relating to their activities.
Our work is scientifically peer-reviewed. We comprise Scottish Natural Heritage; Royal Zoological Society of Scotland; National Museums Scotland; The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies – Edinburgh University; Cairngorms National Park Authority; National Trust for Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland; Scottish Gamekeepers Association, and the Scottish Wildlife Trust.
Our national project is supported by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – contrary to Wildcat Haven’s claims. There are no credible alternatives offered by Wildcat Haven.
In their statement, Wildcat Haven made claims about conservation breeding. This forms a small part of the action plan. The support for gamekeepers in priority areas is to help them carry out wildcat-friendly predator control methods. This is not linked to conservation breeding as stated by Wildcat Haven.
Lethal control of feral cats conducted by gamekeepers and other land managers is a legal and legitimate method for managing feral cat populations. The threats facing the wildcat (hybridisation, disease, accidental persecution) means we need to work with all interest groups to ensure the survival of the Scottish wildcat.
Scottish Wildcat Action has made excellent progress in gathering together disparate groups, identifying wildcat priority areas, locating feral cats and obvious hybrids (cross-breeds) for neutering (with the help of a mini-army of dedicated volunteers) and are pushing forward with Trap, Neuter, Vaccination and Release (TNVR) of feral cats and obvious hybrids.”
George Macdonald, of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, added: “The gamekeepers who have chosen to give of their time to this project, working with the scientific teams to monitor trail cameras, do so because they have vital field skills and local site knowledge and are interested in saving the Scottish wildcat – nothing else. If gamekeepers or any other agents volunteering on the project under the appropriate licence are ever called on to dispatch obvious feral cats, it is done quickly, efficiently, and humanely.”