CONSERVATIONISTS have been given nearly £1 million to protect Scotland’s wildcat population which is said to “on a knife-edge”.
The Heritage Lottery funding will help track the animals and raise awareness of the risks their survival, with conservationists warning that wildcats are “in the last-chance saloon”.
Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said he hopes the £973,100 Heritage Lottery Fund grant will inspire and empower communities to safeguard their existence.
Dr Andrew Kitchener, principal curator of vertebrates, National Museums Scotland, said the Scottish wildcat population “is on a knife-edge”.
“This Heritage Lottery Fund award makes it possible to get many people involved on the ground in doing something positive for the wildcat,” he said.
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Lindsay Mackinlay, nature conservation adviser for the National Trust for Scotland, said: “We are probably in the last-chance saloon for the Scottish wildcat in this country.
“We need to act now to save this fantastic animal and the support received from the Heritage Lottery Fund gives us the greatest opportunity yet to do just that. A Scotland without the Scottish wildcat would feel a much less wild place to live.”
Alex Hogg, the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association chairman, said: “We have already done work in terms of wildcat identification with our members and, due to their practical knowledge, gamekeepers can be very useful in wildcat conservation in terms of trapping, field skills and the siting of cameras, all of which will be useful in the ongoing effort.”
Ron Macdonald, director of policy and advice at Scottish Natural Heritage, said: “We now have the package in place that will hopefully safeguard wildcat populations in these six priority areas.”
Rhoda Grant, Highland and Islands Labour MSP and wildcat champion, said: “It is a privilege to champion this beautiful species, which is very much a part of our heritage.”
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