Latest News - Volunteering to save the Scottish wildcat: from photography to fundraising

Volunteering to save the Scottish wildcat: from photography to fundraising

Whilst out walking in the Aberdeenshire countryside one day, I spotted what I believed to be a wildcat. At the time I knew nothing about them but resolved to change that, then and there.

I first met David Barclay, now Cat Conservation Officer for Scottish Wildcat Action. This was whilst being a ‘Keeper for the Day’ at the RZSS Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig. He offered me volunteering work on Highland Tiger, a conservation project in the Cairngorms that laid some of the groundwork for the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan.

Zak - Scottish wildcat at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park

In return, I had access to photograph all the wonderful animals there, including of course, the wildcats - so no great hardship! I also found myself helping out in the office, packing hundreds of postcards that would be used to help raise awareness of the Highland Tiger Project and the plight of the Scottish wildcat.

Over the next couple of years, I began to learn more about wildcats through being able to meet some of the country’s leading wildcat experts and observing the wildcats at the Park close up. My photograph of a young male Scottish wildcat called Zak, who was found abandoned as a kitten, has been used for publicity, and prints were auctioned to raise money for the project at the Highland Tiger Fling fundraising event.

The Highland Tiger Project came to an end in 2012 but the work continues. Now that Scottish Wildcat Action has taken off, this year I have also spent a few days painting the wildcat quarantine pens at the Park. These will be used as part of the conservation breeding for release programme.

As I am based in the Strathpeffer area, one of the six wildcat priority areas, I met up with Scottish Wildcat Action project officer, Keri Langridge to find out how I could help this next phase of wildcat conservation work. We set up a stall to recruit willing volunteers at the MacKenzie Gathering at Castle Leod, Strathpeffer. This was a full on day - so many wonderful people wanting to sign up!

Scottish Wildcat Action - project officers - camera trap training

I have also been out in the Aviemore area with the project officers filming the initial camera trap training videos, which will be posted on the website, so that we can all follow the same protocol and refresh our minds if need be. It’s brilliant to know that, at last, we are going to get out in the field to do what we can to help save our precious Scottish wildcats. I'm really looking forward to helping with the winter wildcat survey and who knows, maybe catching a glimpse of a Scottish wildcat again.

Scottish Wildcat Action is the first national project to save the highly endangered Scottish wildcat from extinction. It is a partnership involving over 20 organisations, including, Scottish Natural Heritage, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), Cairngorms National Park Authority, Forestry Commission Scotland, National Museums Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Government, as well as its partners. See www.scottishwildcataction.org/how-you-can-help to get involved.

 

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By:

Image for Sue Arber

Sue Arber is a photographer and artist living near Inverness and became a volunteer for Scottish Wildcat Action due to a love of cats and a passion to help protect the Scottish wildcat from extinction in the wild.

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