I: Assessing the feasibility of reintroducing the European wildcat into Western Britain
This project is investigating the potential for, and challenges to, wildcat recovery and restoration outside of their current Scottish refugium, to their former range in Wales and England. Thomas Dando is undertaking interdisciplinary work towards understanding the ecological and social feasibility and practicalities of wildcat restoration.
This project is undertaking qualitative research designed to investigate the challenges of reconciling wildcat conservation and species reintroductions more broadly, with the interests of domestic cat owners, and of potential conflict with farming and shooting interests. As well as work to better understand the role, process and best practice around social feasibility in species reintroduction.
In addition, quantitative studies are addressing the availability of suitable habitat networks for wildcats, and the role of mesocarnivore interactions and anthropogenic factors in predicting domestic cat mobility. On top of this, work is being done to assess the likelihood of hybridization risk and population viability following a wildcat reintroduction as well as means of managing hybridisation. The project aims include building a social-ecological network around the conservation of iconic species in contested landscapes, alongside delivering applied outcomes of protocols and practices towards reintroductions.
The project will work with and is funded by partners at The Vincent Wildlife Trust, who have recently led the successful restoration of pine martens to Wales, and global conservation leaders the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
II: Wildcat conservation and the ecology of domestic and feral cats
The European wildcat, Felis silvestris silvestris, is the UK’s last remaining native felid. After many years of persecution and habitat loss, this subspecies is no longer present in England and Wales. Without intervention, this pattern could repeat itself in Scotland, rendering the wildcat locally extinct in Britain.
The UK wildcat populations are now only extant in the Highlands of Scotland. Alongside a variety of other stressors, one of the key threats to these mammals is hybridisation with domestic and feral cats.
Nell Williams Foley’s project, in conjunction with Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Wildcat Action Group, the Natural Environment Research Council and Cardiff University, aims to use biotelemetry and social research methods to develop both our understanding of cat ecology and of cat ownership. This knowledge will allow the more effective management of the impacts cats have on the Scottish wildcat.
- To develop our understanding of the drivers of contact between free-ranging cats and wildcats
- To assess the efficacy of current management solutions
- To conduct social research to identify potential barriers to responsible cat ownership