Save the Scottish wildcat: Protect Clashindarroch Forest from logging and exploitation

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The Scottish wildcat is one of the rarest animals in the world with as few as 35 left.

Clashindarroch Forest is one of their last strongholds containing a third of the estimated world population.

This publicly-owned forest is currently being logged by Forestry Commission Scotland, a government agency, in the middle of kitten season.

This could disturb wildcat mothers, forcing them to abandon or even eat their kittens.

If the Clashindarroch wildcats are lost then this could mean the extinction of Scotland iconic wildcat.

Please sign our petition asking the Scottish Government to protect Clashindarroch Forest for the wildcats and all the other rare wildlife that lives there.

You can stay up to date on our campaign at facebook.com/ScottishWildcatHaven

 

The Full Story...

Clashindarroch Forest is in Aberdeenshire in the Scottish Highlands. A well matured plantation forest set well away from large towns or tourism, it provides homes to a huge range of native wildlife. This includes rare species like red squirrel, pine marten, hen harrier, black grouse and the rarest of all; the Scottish wildcat.

Wildcat Haven has worked for a decade to protect wildcats in the wild, and have so far documented 13 wildcats in Clashindarroch. This is a huge number given that there may be as few as 35 left on the planet. Up to one third of the entire population lives in this one place making this site one of national importance.

Clashindarroch Forest is a unique safe haven for the Scottish wildcat and other wildlife, and must be protected.

 

The forest is publicly owned, and managed by Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), who are currently clear felling huge portions of it to sell as wood pulp which makes products such as toilet roll. They have clear-felled through most of the once-yearly wildcat breeding season, pausing only briefly last year after we presented evidence of wildcat presence to them, and have continued through all of kitten season and the rest of the year, in key places where wildcats have been documented living. This work is planned to continue year round for decades into the future.

  • Even though we have made them aware of the wildcats
  • Even though it is illegal to disturb a wildcat or damage habitat it uses for den sites
  • Even though there is a risk of wildcat mothers abandoning or eating their kittens
  • Even though FCS is a key partner in the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) "Scottish Wildcat Action" project, and the site has been designated by them as a priority area for conservation

The clear felling continues removing hundreds of thousands of mature trees every year.

 

A Freedom of Information request turned up an email from the species expert at FCS, sent to various staff at FCS, SNH and Scottish Wildcat Action:

"[Wildcat Haven] implored [FCS] to stop the harvesting because they have photos of a cat on the site... The presence of a cat does not preclude forest operations, however we might anticipate some media coverage. We have followed our standard operation management procedure, including a pre-ops site survey, and we are leaving a retention of wind blow, which suits cats, so we will have plenty to respond with."

A pre-ops survey which missed clear sign of wildcats before logging, and some storm damaged trees are apparently good enough to keep the media, and the critically endangered Scottish wildcat, happy.

 

The same species expert commented further in another e-mail with senior members of SNH's Scottish Wildcat Action team, whilst discussing how to respond to questions over clear felling from the general public or media:

“A small number of operations may potentially be an issue, but cats can move”

Unless they're territorial animals which rely on a detailed knowledge of resources in their home range of course, which all Scottish wildcats are and do.

He also states that the same failing surveys are enough protection:

“SWA survey work plus our pre-operations surveys significantly minimise the risk of disturbance.”

 

The project manager of Scottish Wildcat Action replied that it may be better to tell people that:

“If no felling was conducted in a managed forest, eventually the whole forest would become less suitable or perhaps even unsuitable for wildcats.”

Remarkably suggesting that forestry left to grow wild was bad for an animal which lived in wild European forests millions of years before humans had even evolved; this is the person with the day to day responsibility for a £2m project funded by the National Lottery and the Scottish Government to protect Scottish wildcats.

 

Another email between very senior FCS staff further highlighted the FCS attitude towards our rarest wildlife species:

"We have two very significantly scaled windfarm proposals in the pipeline for Clashindarroch... they are probably below the radar for most at the moment... Significant clearfelling 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. I flag this simply to ensure that we do not create any hostages to fortune regarding the scale of our felling operations"

Clashindarroch Forest appears to only be a priority area for commercial exploitation.

 

  • To Forestry Commission Scotland, leaving wildcats a few trees that the wind has blown over is enough to fend off the media and allow clear-felling for toilet roll to continue.
  • To FCS, wildcat presence is a "significant issue" that may create "hostages to fortune" for plans to cut down more of the forest for windfarm installations.
  • To FCS, a priority area for wildcat conservation is still entirely suitable for extensive disturbance and commercial exploitation.
  • To Scottish Wildcat Action, forestry left to grow wild is bad for Scottish wildcats, a forest species.
  • To FCS and SWA, surveys which repeatedly fail to find easily discovered evidence of wildcat presence are enough to “significantly minimise the risk of disturbance”

We believe that the Scottish wildcat, and all the other extremely rare wildlife in Clashindarroch, is more important than making some money selling wood pulp and windfarm space, both of which can happen at hundreds of other sites in Scotland without the rarest wildlife in the UK present.

We believe that current “priority area” protections are meaningless, and that surveys by both FCS and SWA are not fit for the purpose of confirming wildcat presence or otherwise.

We believe that forest left to grow wild is an ideal habitat for a forest creature such as the Scottish wildcat.

 

We ask the Scottish Government to legally protect Clashindarroch Forest from any further development or commercial exploitation of any kind, and that it be left, forever, as a publicly-owned safe haven for the wildcat and all of Scotland's wildlife.

You can stay up to date on our campaign at facebook.com/ScottishWildcatHaven!



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