Wildcats used to be found throughout the UK but now their range has been limited to the remotest parts of Scotland. Their numbers have rapidly declined due to persecution, habitat loss and fragmentation, disease spread by feral cats and the dilution of the wildcat genes through interbreeding with domestic cats.
A recent report commissioned by Scottish Wildcat Action and undertaken by the IUCN in 2019, states that the wildcat is now ‘functionally extinct’ in the UK. This means there is still the possibility of pure wildcats in the wild but that the numbers are so low they are unlikely to meet one another to reproduce.
The wildcats held at Wildwood, are part of the national captive breeding programme. The studbook for the species is held by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) who make breeding and pairing recommendations in order to maintain a genetically viable captive population. Wildwood is hugely successful with breeding wildcats, which are generally quite a tricky species to breed. Staff at Wildwood are researching nest box preference for the captive wildcats to then offer advice and guidance to other institutes. Kittens born at the park have gone on to other collections to form additional breeding pairs. We hope that in the future, Wildwood will assist with reintroducing this iconic species back to the wild in suitable parts of the UK.