The soaring tiger, a symbol of the Scottish Highlands, is in danger of getting lost. But there is still hope for wild cats
Get ready for the wildlife
Langridge and her team are based in Highland Wildlife Park in Cairngorms National Park, one of the sites where Scottish wild cats are bred for release. Before the cats are released, they must prepare for their lives in the wild.
For example, animals in captivity must learn to hunt. In the wild, wild cats prey on rabbits, birds, and mice. “This is our biggest challenge,” said David Barclay, director of off-site conservation for the Saving Wildcats Project. Barclay operates the new breeding center at Highland Wildlife Park.
“In Scotland it is illegal to feed live prey. How can they learn the skills needed to survive in the wild? We will develop a range of tools for this purpose, such as timed feeding boxes and bait systems to encourage them to hunt and bite prey.”
The wild cats in the enclosure are monitored by surveillance cameras. Before the animals are released, they are given a microchip and collar fitted with a GPS tracker and vaccinated.
Solve existing problems المشاكل
In conjunction with the breeding program, solutions must be found to the current problems that drove the wild cat to extinction, says Dr. Helen Senn, head of conservation and science at the RZSS. Otherwise it is flushed with the tap open.
Sen developed the first genetic test that could measure the degree of crossbreeding, or ‘purity’. This allows her to select the purest feral cats for a breeding program to ensure strong offspring. There are also campaigns to educate locals about the importance of neutering their domestic cats.
Additionally, according to Senn, there should also be a plan against further habitat and food loss, such as a reduced rabbit population, and a stricter policy against poachers.
The Scottish wildcat is a legally protected species. Domestic cats are not feral and hybrid species. By obtaining a permit, landowners can kill these predators, but there is a lot of confusion about the difference between a wild cat and a hybrid cat.
“I think the wild cat is also a symbol for improving these kinds of problems in general. There are many challenges, but if we give in now, we also give in to solving some of those challenges,” says Sen.
The Scottish wildcat is a subspecies of the European wildcat, which is still relatively common in European countries such as Italy, France, Belgium, Germany and Eastern Europe. Wild cats have also been spotted in the Netherlands, especially in Limburg.
The wild cat is an important symbol in Scottish history and folklore. Many “clans of the heights” among the population used the image of the wild cat as a symbol of strength, independence and solitary survival in the rugged highlands. The Scottish wildcat symbol is rooted in the culture and history of Scotland.
Saving Wildcats aims to release the first 20 cats to an area in Cairngorms National Park by 2023. Keri Langridge says the goal is to achieve a stable population of 40 stray cats at this location within 5 years. “But then we set the standards very high.”
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