Scottish wildcats are facing extinction after it emerged that 30 per cent of the species could be wiped out by a wind farm expansion.
Swedish energy giant Vattenfall hopes to expand a wind farm at the publicly-owned Clashindarroch Forest in Aberdeenshire – home to at least 13 Scottish wildcats.
With estimates for the entire population as low as 35, it is thought to be the largest single population known to exist.
Campaign group Wildcat Haven said the wind farm would “clear fell” a large amount of wildcats, “fracturing the only viable population” of the critically endangered cats.
Some 200,000 people have signed a petition demanding the Scottish Government protect the forest.
With one wind farm already in operation at the site, which was strongly opposed by the local community, the second would see a quarter of the forest felled.
Wildcat Haven said that 30 per cent of the estimated population in the country could be lost, driving forward the extinction of the species.
The rest of Scotland’s wildcats survive in small, isolated pockets spread across the Highlands.
Forestry Commission Service (FCS) emails released under the Freedom of Information Act have highlighted the threat to the cats.
An email from district manager John Thomson to senior FCS staff said: “We have two very significantly scaled wind farm proposals in the pipeline for Clashindarroch. They are probably below the radar for most at the moment.
“Significant clear felling [of trees] is likely to be relevant to both.
“I will be surprised if the presence of Scottish wildcat does not become a significant issue during the planning process.”
Wildlife filmmaker and expert wildcat conservationist Steve Piper, who started the petition, slammed the development as “shameful”.