Louise is the Staff Naturalist at Aigas Field Centre in the Scottish Highlands, one of the partners involved in Scottish Wildcat Action. She graduated in 2013 with a BSc in Environmental Resource Management and has previously worked in Cape Verde, on a Loggerhead Turtle Conservation project and for the RSPB.
Latest News - Scottish wildcat seeks loving female
On a crisp, early morning in May, I set off south to pick up some very important cargo. My destination was RZSS Highland Wildlife Park and my cargo was Hamish, a Scottish wildcat.
As one of the organisations involved in Scottish Wildcat Action, Aigas Field Centre are working with other breeding projects by exchanging our cats to increase the gene pool with the eventual aim of releasing their offspring into the wild. The future of the Scottish wildcat will depend on a number of factors, but building a conservation breeding population is going to be key.
Hamish (left) is a rather special wildcat; he has good genes, is 11 years old and has fathered many litters of kittens. On that day in May, he also got his five minutes of fame as his journey to Aigas was being filmed for a television documentary. He was captured when I arrived at the park and quickly moved into a regular, cardboard cat carry box, seat belted into the car ready for his journey north.
After two hours we arrived, Hamish was taken into his new enclosure, divided into two, the other side housing his new lady, Cromarty (below right). Understandably, he was rather apprehensive in leaving his carrier, and then made a dash for cover, catching a quick look through the wire to Cromarty. They were kept separated for a few days, to allow Hamish to settle into his new surroundings. It must be quite daunting going from being on view to the public at the Highland Wildlife Park to a quiet enclosure in the Highland landscape.
The enclosures are large in size, away from public view or disturbance and includes natural vegetation to hide and shelter in. We use enrichment in the forms of hiding food and hanging it up to make the cats work for their food. In addition, there are high boxes, walkways and swings to keep them busy and mimic climbing trees.
The day soon came to introduce them to each other formally. I tentatively removed the divider, two of the rangers ready just in case fur started to fly. However, it couldn’t have been a more subdued event, neither moved. It took a while but they seem to be getting along nicely so we have our fingers crossed for the future.
Photo credit: Louise Hughes
This content was made possible by our Partners & Funders at Aigas Field Centre