Wildcat Haven

Douglas and I first encountered the plight of the Scottish Wildcat by stumbling across Steve Piper’s website, www.scottishwildcats.co.uk and his film, Last of the Scottish Wildcats (Buy the DVD at http://CoffeeFilms.com/ScottishWildcats.)

The plight of the Scottish Wildcat – doomed to imminent extinction by hybridisation – was one we could not ignore.

So together with Stephen Rossiter, Highland Titles Sales Director, I met Steve Piper in Fort William during one of his forays into the north as he began work on what would become the Wildcat Haven project. I am not sure what I expected, but Steve’s operation had looked frankly lightweight. No offices. No staff. Clearly no SNH style expense account (Steve was staying in the cheapest digs in Fort William). We were not sure what to make of Steve. Until we met him. Then it was very clear that he was running fast and lean without government grants and he was getting it done. He knew what he was hoping to achieve, had a team who were doing it, but was short of funds. We agreed to send him some cash and have never regretted getting involved with saving the Scottish wildcat.

In June 2013 Steve contacted us to say that he was taking a back seat and the Scottish Wildcat Association was going to become the Wildcat Trust and that Dr Paul O’Donoghue would be running the show. In the end Paul set up Wildcat Haven as a community interest company rather than a trust, and perhaps because he still had a full time job as a university lecturer at the University of Chester, his wife, Emily took the lead in administering the Company. Paul came to our 2014 gathering in Glencoe House, Glencoe and electrified the audience. We increased our level of funding and became even more keen to see them succeed.

Fast forward to May 2015 and the Highland Titles Gathering at the Isles of Glencoe Hotel, Glencoe. After Paul’s talk, we retired to the bar and Paul explained that he hoped to extend the feral-free area of Wildcat Haven far beyond the area they had been working on – the remote Ardnamurchan peninsula, including Moidart, Morvern and Sunart. Paul had an ambition to create a huge feral-free zone of thousands of square miles, everything north west of the great glen, the ancient water filled rift valley that separates the Highlands from the rest of Scotland.  This was an exciting vision and one which would guarantee space for an expanding Scottish wildcat population.

Dr Paul O'Donoghue at the 2016 Gathering
Dr Paul O’Donoghue at the 2016 Gathering

There and then I offered to back Paul’s vision. It was clear that this would require far more funding that Highland Titles could offer. We have our own program of rewilding all planned out and did not want to abort it. But if we could set Wildcat Haven up to sell souvenir plots of land – the model that had worked so well for us – then the vision had a fighting chance. Teach a man to fish…. So Paul and Emily stayed on for a few days whilst we discussed how to do it, culminating in a meeting with our Scottish solicitors, J. & H. Mitchell W.S.in Pitlochry.  From the start we felt that the commercial arm should be a new Company so as not to distract from the business of clearing land of feral cats that Wildcat Haven had been so successful in doing. Wildcat Haven Enterprises was going to be a business which would fund the expansion of that work and to add experience my son in law, Douglas agreed to step down from the board of Highland Titles to take on a new role as a director of Wildcat Haven Enterprises along with Paul’s wife Emily who has many years experience with conservation, including the high profile Lynx Trust.  Douglas was a sad loss to Highland Titles. Not only had he grown our business since joining, but he has considerable business knowledge, having a business degree as well as time spent as a police officer. Douglas is a man to get the job done.

After a few months of frantic work, we had everything in place. Highland Titles had bought a wood overlooking Loch Loyne in 2014 and had created an 3 Ha deer-proof Haven, which we had called Bumblebee Haven. With advice from the Bumblebee Trust we had asked our friends at nearby Dundreggan, Trees for Life, to plant the tree species that had been recommended as good for bees and which would thrive on the peaty soils.  A small part of the reserve (called Mountainview) was already being sold as souvenir plots, but we hoped to establish other niche environments (Havens) to benefit a range of species. Why not wildcats?  This was, after all, prime wildcat territory.

With the land gifted to Wildcat Haven Enterprises, they needed a website, which was designed and built in record time by the team at Hotscot in Fort William who by now are used to our frantic and unreasonable requests. Other suppliers were sent designs and shipped folders, booklets, badges etc. All the materials need to create gift packs. Mike Tomkies, the great man of wildcats, was approached to check that he supported the choice of name for the new Haven at Mountainview, Wildernesse Wood (Wildernesse was the name he used in his books to hide the true location of his home on Loch Sheil – Gaskan).

Click the logo to visit Wildcat Haven
Click the logo to visit Wildcat Haven

At last, the great day came. At the end of September Wildcat Haven Enterprises launched its vision to the world and they began to take orders. They had a useful amount of coverage in the media, plus a few people who were less than enthusiastic about what had been achieved.  But we are just pleased that when the Scottish Wildcat needed help the most, Highland Titles was there willing and able to step up to the plate to help create a renewable source of income for Wildcat Haven.

So, if you want to help the Scottish Wildcat I can recommend buying a plot of land in Wildernesse Wood from Wildcat Haven Enterprises.


9 Replies to “Wildcat Haven”

  1. I came here from twitter to see what Wightman had said about Wildcat Havens but cant find anything. Can you put in a link? He needs to just talk to them rather than bully them with lawyers. Whatever he said it seems to have done them a lot of damage.

    1. I’m just looking it up for same news interest. Who needs to talk to who? Who are you saying has bullied who with lawyers? In what way, and based on only Twitter have you come to the conclusion whatever was said has done ‘a lot of damage’?

      1. I think Wightman needs to talk to Wildcat Haven. He has portrayed them as a scam when in fact they are a charitable wildcat conservation group with a long history of saving wildcats. Big mistake. He appears to have damaged their fund raising efforts. He is a credible author, but this time he seems to have got it wrong. He needs to cut a deal, apologise, try and smooth things out. Instead he is doing the old trick, that many guilty defendants have tried before him, of bumping up costs in the hope that the pursuer cannot afford to proceed. First lots of threats and puff. Then an unreasonable £50000 caution. Threats of protracted court time. Expensive lawyers. The most expensive QC in Scotland. This is bullying 101 and does not seem to be working. I could put up his links, but he has wisely taken them down. They are, after all, defamatory.

        In Scotland you can only sue for ACTUAL LOSS. So, the figure asked for represents real money lost. No wonder they sued him.

        1. I think youll find that it’s them who are taking legal action against him – i wouldnt be speaking to a company thats threatening to sue me!

          Their assets are £5000 yet they are claiming damages of £750000!

          I think it’s perfectly reasonable the courts want them to put up £50k deposit, otherwise they cost Wightman money and get off scot free if they lose!

          1. If they are claiming £750,000 then they will have to explain to the court how they have lost £750,000 because of AW’s malicious falsehoods. If they cannot show that this happened, they will lose. If they can satisfy the court that this is true, they will win. It is very simple and actually seems fair to me.

            I read that they had no objection to the bond of caution. AW has tweeted that they put up the money. They seem to be confident. It will all come out in court, so I am happy to wait to read about it in the papers.

            I agree with Tam. Very reasonable to ask for a caution. He is no millionaire. Just a guy who possibly damaged the best chance that the Scottish Wildcat has to avoid extinction. Or a guy who exposed a shocking scam. I think that if it were the latter, they would slink away into the undergrowth, rather than come out fighting like a wildcat, but we will soon know the truth. One way or another. An exposed scam, or a discredited and bankrupt wildcat hater.

        2. Yes the compensation awarded is supposed to cover actual losses.

          So how is the £750,000 calculated when the company has assets of less than £5000?

          I dont think it’s ureasonable for the court to ask for a bond. That bond money can be used to help meet Andy Wightman’s costs.

          It seems the pursurers started this case. If they feel that they have a case they could always crowdfund, the same way Wightman has had to do! He’s no millionaire, just a decent hard working guy.

  2. The constant infiltration of domesticated cats, within the species, is diluting the species itself. The only way to prevent this is to catch and neuter the domestic cats, thus protecting the wildcats from co-mingling and procreating.

  3. I am a supporter of Wildcat Haven. You do not state that the new government backed “Scottish Wildcat Action” project is just a joint venture by the landowners and zoos. They want to clear the Highlands of all cats, wild or feral and reduce the Scottish wildcat to a zoo animal where it can no longer take grouse from the shooters. Pretty sick stuff. Wildcat Haven is the only way forward for the Scottish Wildcat.

    “Scottish Wildcat Action” is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh University’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, the Cairngorms National Park Authority, the National Trust for Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland, the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, and the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

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