Last May I blogged about the creation of Wildcat Haven Enterprises by my son-in-law and business “Dragon”, Douglas Wilson and experienced wildlife biologist Emily O’Donoghue, who is the wife of Paul O’Donoghue. Together they have worked on a range of projects from reintroducing the great bustard to the Salisbury Plain to capturing and DNA testing black rhinos in South Africa. Emily is also director of the Lynx UK Trust, which comprises a group of experienced conservationists and scientists with specialisations in wild felines, genetics, field research, re-introductions and education that have worked on projects worldwide. The Lynx UK Trust is supported by the law firm of Clifford Chance, one of the world’s pre-eminent law firms with significant depth and range of resources across five continents. Clifford Chance prides itself on an outstanding pro bono and community outreach programme that enables everyone in the firm to engage enthusiastically and which delivers effective assistance to chosen charitable and not-for-profit partners. I am excited by the prospect of the reintroduction of the Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx) which was most likely hunted to extinction in the UK for its fur between 500-700AD.
Wildcat Haven has been working in Ardnamurchan since 2008, with spectacular results which have resulted in the first ever “safe space” for wildcats. Wildcats need a huge territory to survive, which may be as large as 40 square miles. The haven in Ardnamurchan, Morvern, Moidart and Sunart which has been carved out by Wildcat Haven over many years could support as many as 20-30 wildcats. But they need more space if they are to become a thriving population. This winter, Wildcat Haven have begun work at the other end of the highlands, in Caithness, where a massive 1,500 square mile haven is planned. Once that is complete, Wildcat Haven intends to join the two areas up to create one massive haven, north and west of the Great Glen, the huge rift valley and lake system that divides the highlands from the rest of Scotland. This refuge will then need to be maintained and the need for this perpetual funding was the reason for creating Wildcat Haven Enterprises with its business model of selling souvenir plots.
Into this exciting mix, landed Scottish Wildcat Action, at huge expense and with lots of glossy brochures and administrators. So far, they have simply muddied the waters and have no results to speak of. Worse, there are those that see a hidden agenda in this project, that brings together Edinburgh Zoo, which wants to breed wildcat kits to bring in the paying public, with the hunting interests of Scottish Land and Estates. Could it be that the gamekeepers want to catch any remaining wildcats and put them into a zoo based breeding programme? It certainly looks that way to some people and if true, this would lead to the final extinction of the Scottish wildcat as a wild animal – because these cats can never be successfully reintroduced. This would shore up the flagging finances of the zoo, allow the gamekeepers to kill any feral cats with impunity but at the cost of our last wild feline predator.
The whole thing smell very fishy to me and I will continue to put my support behind the fantastic work that is being done by Wildcat Haven and hope for the ultimate demise of this Johnny-come-lately pretense at real conservation that the Scottish Government has backed with taxpayer’s money.