Latest News - NEWS: Minister gives seal of approval for Scottish Wildcat Action project

NEWS: Minister gives seal of approval for Scottish Wildcat Action project

First published by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

Roseanna Cunningham MSP – Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform – lent her support to the Scottish Wildcat Action project on a visit to RZSS Highland Wildlife Park today, Wednesday 24 August.

The visit marked a double celebration for the six-year partnership project. The Cabinet Secretary formally opened RZSS’s conservation breeding enclosures for the critically endangered Scottish wildcat, and heard more about results from the largest survey on the species ever conducted.

Photo (left to right): Barbara Smith, Acting CEO of RZSS, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Eileen Stuart, Chair of the Scottish Wildcat Action Steering Group.

Roseanna Cunningham visits RZSS wildcat breeding enclosure

Scottish Wildcat Action is the first national project to save the highly endangered Scottish wildcat from extinction. The project brings together more than 20 organisations in the conservation, scientific and land management communities, and is supported by Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

During her visit, Ms Cunningham was given a behind the scenes tour of the off-show conservation breeding enclosures at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, where a combination of wildcats born in captivity and a select number of wild-caught cats are being introduced into large, naturalistic enclosures with the hope they will breed. The Cabinet Secretary also met the latest litter of wildcat kittens born at the Park, which will play a vital role in helping conserve this magnificent native species.

Photo: Roseanna Cunningham MSP with a Scottish wildcat at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park

Roseanna Cunningham with a Scottish wildcat

Speaking during her visit, Ms Cunningham said: “It is fantastic to see so many organisations coming together to save the iconic Scottish wildcat. Through a combination of direct action in six priority areas, RZSS’s pioneering conservation breeding programme, and ongoing surveying and monitoring, Scottish Wildcat Action represents the best chance the wildcat has of surviving in the long term.”

Barbara Smith, Acting CEO of conservation charity the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) said: “We are grateful to the Cabinet Secretary and the Scottish Government for their support at this critically important time for the Scottish wildcat. The off-show conservation breeding programme at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park has an essential role to play in ensuring that one of our most endangered mammals has a long-term future in Scotland. We are committed to working closely with our partners in Scottish Wildcat Action to tackle the multiple threats facing the species in the wild.”

Eileen Stuart, Head of Policy and Advice for Scottish Natural Heritage and Chair of Scottish Wildcat Action, said: “The support of Scottish Government will be crucial if we are to succeed in saving the Scottish wildcat. With the formal opening of the conservation breeding enclosures today, and having recently concluded the largest ever survey into the Scottish wildcat, Scottish Wildcat Action is taking the necessary steps to safeguard the species from extinction.”

Fewer than 300 Scottish wildcats are thought to exist in the wild, with the main threats to the species being interbreeding with feral domestic cats, disease and accidental persecution. Scottish Wildcat Action is delivering the first national plan to save the Scottish wildcat: reducing threats in six wildcat priority areas, breeding wildcats for later release and contributing to better understanding through new research.

With their big, bushy, black-ringed tail and tenacious behaviour it is no surprise that the Scottish wildcat was used historically in many Highland clan crests. The Scottish wildcat is one of the rarest cat species in the world and is critically endangered in the wild. The long-term future of the Scottish wildcat relies on local people reporting sightings of any cats living in the wild, volunteering and spreading the word about the conservation challenge facing the species.

For more information about Scottish Wildcat Action, visit

More information on the Scottish wildcat survey results can be found here:


About the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

  • The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland was founded by visionary lawyer Thomas Gillespie, the Society was set up in 1909 ‘to promote, facilitate and encourage the study of zoology and kindred subjects and to foster and develop amongst the people an interest in and knowledge of animal life’. The Society still exists to connect people with nature and safeguard species from extinction.
  • Please visit here for information on all our conservation projects.
  • RZSS Edinburgh Zoo and RZSS Highland Wildlife Park are owned by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), a registered charity, charity no SC004064.
  • RZSS Edinburgh Zoo is set in 82 acres of sloping parkland, just a stone’s throw away from Edinburgh’s bustling city centre. In its 103-year history the Zoo has been home to many famous animal residents, more recently the UK’s only giant pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, and the UK’s only koalas.
  • RZSS Highland Wildlife Park specialises in Scottish species, past and present, and other cold weather adapted animals from around the world.
  • The Park, which covers over 200 acres and is located within the Cairngorms National Park, is home to two male polar bears and the only female polar bear in the UK.
  • RZSS Edinburgh Zoo and RZSS Highland Wildlife Park are members of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA).

About Scottish Wildcat Action

Scottish Wildcat Action launched in 2015 and is a partnership project that unites leading experts from over 20 key organisations.

The organisations who form the Scottish Wildcat Action Steering Group are Scottish Natural Heritage; Forestry Commission Scotland; Cairngorms National Park Authority; National Museums Scotland; Royal Zoological Society of Scotland; Scottish Gamekeepers Association; Scottish Wildlife Trust; National Trust for Scotland; and The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies - Edinburgh University.

It is funded by the Scottish Government and Heritage Lottery Fund.

For further information please contact:

Gavrielle Kirk-Cohen, PR Coordinator for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, on 0131 314 0383 or




Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

This content was made possible by our Partners & Funders at Royal Zoological Society of Scotland


Image for Vicky Burns

Vicky is the Communications Coordinator for Scottish Wildcat Action. She has a background in third sector communications and marketing and is based at the Scottish Wildlife Trust office in Edinburgh.

email or call 07799 342380

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