Wildcat Haven have found a population of at least 13 critically endangered Scottish wildcats in the Clashindarroch forest, Aberdeenshire. The whole forest is under threat from logging by government agencies. A legal submission has now been made to Scottish Natural Heritage setting out their duty to notify the site for designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) making this the first and only wildcat reserve in Scotland.
70 times rarer than a giant panda
Scientific estimates show that there are as few as 30 Scottish wildcats remaining, making them 70 times rarer than the giant panda. The last known stronghold for this iconic Scottish species is the Clashindarroch forest in Aberdeenshire. Wildcat Haven, the only organisation focused solely on protecting the wildcat in the wild, has evidenced a population of at least 13 individuals. Director, Dr Paul O’Donoghue comments, “The Clashindarroch is the best site in Scotland for the wildcat and the population we have found there is utterly priceless and offers great hope for the future of the species”.
Threatened by logging
However the publicly owned Clashindarroch, is currently being logged by the Forestry Land Scotland (FLS) to make pulp for toilet rolls and there are plans for major windfarm development which would destroy huge areas of habitat and be disastrous for the wildcats.
O’Donoghue continues, “It is astonishing that the last stronghold is being destroyed by the very government that is supposed to be saving it. If there were 13 pandas in there then it wouldn’t be logged and so why is the magnificent Scottish wildcat suffering this fate”.
There is currently not one single site in the whole of Scotland that is designated as a protected area for wildcats. In contrast there are multiple sites designated for other species such as great crested newts, capercaillie and numerous bat species, O’Donoghue comments, “The wildcat has been ignored for decades and it is now on the brink of extinction. The lack of protected habitat for them is a major contributing factor. There is simply nowhere safe for them to live and breed. That needs to change immediately, otherwise we will lose the wildcat forever which is simply unthinkable. The Scottish Highlands without the wildcat just wouldn’t be the same”.
Unprecedented public support
Wildcat Haven launched a petition on Change.org to stop the logging of the Clashindarroch and make it a protected area. The petition has now been signed by over 813,000 people making it the biggest British wildlife petition of all time. O’Donoghue comments’ The support for our plans to get SSSI status for the Clashindarroch is simply unprecedented and cannot be ignored by the government. The people have spoken and the message is clear. Save the wildcat in the wild where they belong’.
Duty to designate
Today, Living Law, a specialist environmental law firm, working for Wildcat Haven, have put the Government agency on notice that it has a statutory duty to designate the Clashindarroch as a SSSI and will launch litigation proceedings if needed to hold it to account.
Susan Shaw, founder of Living Law comments, “The presence of this iconic species at Clashindarroch is now irrefutable. Indeed, government publications and independent experts have acknowledged this presence.
“This is a population find of National and indeed international importance. That is why we have made the case unequivocally that the Scottish government and its agencies have a duty to now designate this site for protection. If the case can be made and we believe it overwhelmingly has been, then there is now no discretion on this matter, designation must happen.”
Press release and image provided by Wildcat Haven.