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New partnership to restore native wildcats to Britain

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Wildwood Trust is delighted to be working in partnership with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT) to restore species of conservation concern to Britain, with a particular focus on the European wildcat (Felis silvestris).

The European wildcat is one of the rarest and most endangered mammals in Britain. The species disappeared from England and Wales a century ago because of persecution during a time when all predators were considered as vermin. A healthy population of wildcats will help restore the balance in the ecosystem by controlling numbers of prey animals, such as rabbits and rodents, and predators such as foxes through competition for food.

The Wildwood Trust, Durrell and VWT are pooling their skills, knowledge and experience to establish a self-sustaining population of wildcats outside Scotland. Currently, the only wild population of these rare cats is in the remote Highlands. However, this small population has been declared “functionally extinct” as interbreeding has resulted in them having the same gene pool as domestic cats. The long-term goal of this project is to establish a self-sustaining wildcat population in an ecologically suitable landscape in Wales and/or England. Most importantly, the team will ensure the needs and views of local communities are taken into full account during this project.

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There will be many stages to ensure a successful reintroduction of wildcats. As a first step, VWT and Durrell have undertaken a preliminary scientific feasibility study to identify potential landscapes for reintroduction. The team are now conducting in-depth ecological and social feasibility studies to find out which areas are most suitable. Some of this detailed work is being carried out in collaboration with the University of Exeter through a joint PhD studentship.

Wildwood will be using their long experience in breeding wildcats to help create the new wild population, with the kittens being released over many years. Wildwood will be launching a national appeal later this year to raise funds to build the breeding facilities.

This partnership brings together three organisations with a wealth of expertise in intensive species-recovery programmes, particularly in captive breeding and species reintroductions. Wildwood’s mission is the protection, conservation and rewilding of British wildlife. Durrell’s ‘Rewild our World’ strategy focuses on recovering wildlife, reviving ecosystems and reconnecting people to nature in countries around the world, including the UK. VWT has worked for over 40 years to monitor and recover mammal species of conservation concern in the UK, Ireland and elsewhere in Europe. Combining the knowledge of Wildwood, Durrell and VWT is essential to delivering this vital project.

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Wildwood Trust

Wildwood Trust opened in 1999 as a centre of excellence for the conservation of British wildlife, and was established as a registered charity in 2002.

Wildwood is Kent’s best British wildlife park. Home to over 200 native animals, past and present and set in 40 acres of beautiful ancient woodland where visitors can see bears, wolves, bison, deer, owls, foxes, red squirrels, wild boar, lynx, wild horses, badgers and beavers plus many more.

As one of the leading British animal conservation charities, Wildwood Trust is dedicated to saving Britain’s most threatened wildlife. Wildwood Trust have taken part in many ground-breaking conservation programmes to date, which include, saving the water vole, using wild horses to help restore Kent’s most precious nature reserves, bringing the extinct European beaver back to Britain and returning the hazel dormouse & red squirrel to areas where they have been made extinct. 

Vincent Wildlife Trust

Vincent Wildlife Trust is a national charity with over 40 years of experience in mammal research and conservation. The Trust is respected internationally as a leader in developing and implementing innovative approaches that halt and reverse declines in threatened mammal species.

Visit www.vwt.org.uk

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is an international charity working to save species from extinction. Headquartered at Jersey Zoo in the Channel Islands, Durrell’s vision is for a wilder, healthier more colourful world.

Established by author and conservationist, Gerald Durrell, in 1959, Durrell’s overall aim is for more diverse, beautiful and resilient natural landscapes in which species can thrive and people can enjoy a deeper connection with nature.  Their approach concentrates on the rewilding of animals, the rewilding of ecosystems and the rewilding of people.

Visit www.durrell.org

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