The recovery of the magnificent Felis silvestris grampia
The Scottish Wildcat Project
Alladale Wilderness Reserve is an active participant in the recovery of the threatened Scottish Wildcat. The species is fully protected by law and is generally recognized as a separate subspecies, Felis silvestris grampia, to its European cousins, and is confined to the Central and Northern Highlands of mainland Scotland.
Habitat destruction, human persecution, and interbreeding with domestic cats has decimated the population. There are now thought to be 100 to 300 individuals left, making it one of the rarest feline species in the world.
Image by Alladale’s Reserve Manager Innes MacNeill
A wildcat enclosure has been built on the reserve which currently houses four wildcats, two males and two females, as part of a captive breeding project in partnership with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and Saving Wildcats. The wildcats are being bred with the ultimate aim of release at some point in the future, once appropriate preparations have been made. In July 2018, two kittens were born, the female’s first litter. Three more were born in 2019 and in 2020.
The female from the 2020 litter was the very first cat to be rehomed in March 2021 to the newly built Breeding for Release Centre at RZSS’ Highland Wildlife Park. You can read more about ‘Nell’ here. It is hoped that here offspring will be among the first Wildcats to be released back into the wild as early as 2022.
The first two months are critical for the kitten’s survival, and therefore they are left undisturbed with their mother, taking their first steps outside and exploring their enclosure. Only Reserve Manager Innes MacNeill and ranger Ryan Munro, responsible for the wildcat’s daily care, are allowed near the enclosure to carry out inspections and make sure the kittens and their mother are left alone and doing well. Visitors are not allowed near any of the wildcats’ enclosures.
Image by Innes MacNeill