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Welcome to Wildcat Haven…

The Scottish wildcat is going extinct: an irreplaceable feature of our natural and cultural heritage, and our only surviving native feline, it has survived centuries of intense deforestation and persecution, but is losing the battle to hybridisation: cross-mating with feral domestic cats, which outnumber wildcats by 1000:1 across the Highlands.

Wildcat Haven was designed by an international team of conservation, wildlife and animal welfare experts as a comprehensive range of fieldwork actions that could protect the wildcat from extinction and support the natural rebuilding of the population, entirely in-situ, in the wilds of the Scottish West Highlands.

Over the last ten years statutory agencies have spent almost two million pounds of public money talking about saving the wildcat, whilst Wildcat Haven has spent less than £200,000 of grants and donations from the US, China, commercial sponsors such as Highland Titles and the international general public creating a vast, threat-free haven where the Scottish wildcat can thrive again.

In the process, our project has been commended and endorsed by a range of animal welfare organisations for achieving complete feral cat removal across a vast landscape using a humane trap, neuter and return methodology, as well as avoiding the use of captive breeding, highlighted by the IUCN as a poor and ineffective tool for wildcat conservation.

All this work is carried out as Wildcat Haven CIC, which works alongside landowners to deliver wildcat conservation in-situ on their property.

It’s good progress, but the wildcat needs us to expand the Haven as quickly as possible, and within it we need to build a network of reserves that we own and can maintain as perfect habitats for wildcats; strongholds for the species which can never be developed as anything else.

To make this possible we needed more than grants and donations; we needed to invest in things like merchandise and advertising, but such trading activities bring financial risks that we couldn’t take with the grants and donations funding Wildcat Haven CIC, so we have developed a new part to the project, Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC, to act as our trading arm.

The set up of Enterprises has been entirely funded by a commercial partner, Highland Titles, and brings business and merchandising experts onto our team to work with things like merchandise, gift plots of land and advertising to generate profits which pour into the land purchases and fieldwork.

It’s a model used by many large charities and means that the Wildcat Haven project can financially benefit from trading like a business, without any financial risk to the project as it currently stands. Donations and grants still go directly and completely to the fieldwork, and every year we will publish a breakdown of how the trading activities income has been spent, showing exactly how much has gone to purchasing land and enhancing it, and how much has gone to all the feral cat neutering, education and research work that has always been part of the project.

This is an exciting expansion to a project that has delivered a huge amount on extremely limited funds, an amazing opportunity to boost funding for successfully proven fieldwork and expand the Haven to thousands of square miles, protecting wildcats everywhere west of the Great Glen; always our long term aim but now a very real possibility.

Wildcat Haven isn’t an idea, a discussion, or eternal research which never gets applied in the field; it is a truly comprehensive, active and successful conservation effort for the genetically pure Scottish wildcat; we aren’t seeking the best route for conserving the wildcat, we’re already taking it.

History of the project

2007
2007
Whilst registering as a charity, the Scottish Wildcat Association is contacted by the Bosack Kruger and Summerlee Foundations in the us, offering grant support for a big-idea project "that can really make a difference for the wildcat". 2007
2008
2008
SWA chairman Steve Piper begins a series of e-mail brainstorms with international experts, drafting an outline concept which could save the Scottish Wildcat. Developed from precious action plan outlines, the new plan defined a precise geographic location to work in and a theoretical best-option methodology from several options, reducing time consuming research requirements. With most believing the wildcat had little time left, flexibility, scalability and caution where built in to allow the project to continually evolve with the latest knowledge and be researched and refined in the field as it was carried out.

Choosing a fieldwork location in Ardnamurchan and Sunart in the West Highlands, close to where Mike Tomkies had written his book Wildcat Haven, the project was named after it: in honour of Mike's work educating the public about wildcats and doing some of the earliest research into hybridisation. 2008
2009
2009
The action plan goes through a series of refinements with an expanded team of experts adding Dr Paul O'Donoghue (genetics and ecology, University of Chester, Dr Andrew Kitchener (wildcat morphology and behaviour, IUCN CSG), Kerry Kirshaw (wildcat morphology and behaviour), the Feline Advisory 2009
2010
2010
With funding from Bosack Kruger and Summerlee, plus grants from Shuman Animal Welfare Trust, Mackintosh Foundation and the Scottish Wildcat Association, a series of field trials and research trips are carried out by the team that developed the project. Meeting with landowners, farmers, community councils, residents and businesses, the action plan is further refined and the first feral cat live-trapping takes place at Resipole Farm, supported by Resipole., Ardnamurchan Cats Protection and Crown Vets in Fort William: the first feral cat is successfully trapped, neutered and returned. 2010
2011
2011
Stepping up the trials a field team is placed in the region over winter to carry out further live and camera trapping to identify areas where Scottish wildcats, hybrids and ferals live. Further links are built with the local community and the first colony of feral cats is identified on a croft, trapped and neutered with the help of the crofter. 2011
2012
2012
Trials continue refining the methodology and building relations with local stakeholders many of whom provide support for the project including Resipole Farm, Ben View Hotel, Nadurra Visitor Centre, Fort William Forestry Commission, Crown Vets and Seaview Grazings. Further afield support from Springfield Camping, Albion Manufacturing, Wildlife and Countryside Services, Coffee Design and Bison Print provides additional essential equipment and materials. 2012
2013
2013
A licence is approved for wildcat trapping under the field management of Dr Paul O'Donoghue and the first field vets over-winter, providing feral cat neutering, feline health checks and anaesthetising and blood sampling. The first cats are radio collared to begin studying their use of the landscape and interactions with each other. SWA trustees and members agree to wind down the Association to allow establishment of a Wildcat Haven dedicated organisation 2013
2014
2014
With continuing grants from Bosack Kruger and Summerlee, added to by sponsorship from Highland Titles and Phil Larsen's Scottish Wildcat Gallery project, the fieldwork continues to expand and offers free pet cat neutering and health checks to local residents. The SWA winds down and project director Steve Piper hands Wildcat Haven over to Dr O'Donoghue at the new organisation. Over summer, the team announce the successful neutering of all feral and hybrid cats. 2014