Highlands & Islands

Scottish wildcat 'safe haven' expanding into Morvern

Scottish wildcat kitten Image copyright PA
Image caption Scottish wildcats have been declining in numbers

A Scottish wildcat "safe haven" set up in the north west Highlands is to double in size.

A location on the remote Ardnamurchan peninsula was designated a protected area for the endangered cat last year.

It is being extended to taken in parts of Morvern to give the haven a total coverage of 500 square miles.

Domestic cats in and around the wildcat green zone are being neutered to prevent them breeding with pure wildcats.

Mixing with domestic cats, disease and loss of habitat have led to wildcats becoming an endangered species.

The project involves scientist Dr Paul O'Donoghue.

They believe wildcats' best chance of surviving is in the remotest parts of Scotland.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Domestic cats pose a threat to pure-bred wildcats

Ardnamurchan and Morvern include some of Scotland's wildest landscapes and few human residents.

The main communities in Ardnamurchan - Acharacle and Strontian - have populations of about 560 and 350.

The haven project is separate from one involving six priority areas for Scottish wildcat conservation identified following research commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Thee Angus Glens, Strathbogie in Aberdeenshire, Strathavon in Moray and Morvern, Strathpeffer and Dulnain in the Highlands are the six areas.

The research suggested these were where wildcats had the best chance.

Nine areas were assessed as part of the multi-agency Wildcat Action project.

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