Wednesday, April 13, 2016

(Secret) Killing in the Name of Conservation?

There are two efforts in Scotland to save the endangered Scottish Wildcat. One has created success on the ground through the humane approaches of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and community engagement, while the other has gone back on its word and decided that trap-and-kill is the right solution.

The Scottish Wildcat, also known as the Highland Tiger in media campaigns, is an isolated breed that lives in some of the harshest areas of Scotland. Years of habitat loss and targeting by game managers and landowners reduced their numbers drastically, with some estimates claiming only 35 individual cats left in the wild. Inter-breeding, or hybridization, with feral cats has also decreased the number of pure Scottish Wildcats left.

Wildcat Haven has been working to save Scottish Wildcats since 2008. By working in the field and going door-to-door in the community to promote responsible pet guardianship, the importance of spaying and neutering, and the practice of TNR, they’ve succeeded in building an 800-square-mile “safe-zone” for the Wildcats, free of intact feral cats.

A section of the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan, listing no lethal control methods. (emphasis by ACR)

The Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan, a separate, government sponsored plan led by Scottish National Heritage (SNH) that began in 2013, also aims to save the Wildcat. As published, the Action Plan has the same goal as Wildcat Haven does, and purports to use the same non-lethal methods in working toward its goal. However, documents recently acquired by Wildcat Haven through a Freedom of Information request show trap-and-kill is and has already been employed by Action Plan participants.

It’s always heartbreaking to learn that cats have been trapped and killed by government organizations or municipalities aiming to reduce their numbers through brute force. It’s especially hard to take when it seemed as if those groups had smartly chosen non-lethal methods for managing feral cats.

"Humane dispatch" protocol from Scottish National Heritage calls for shooting defenseless trapped cats in the head.

Despite the language in the Plan, application documents show that licensed trappers are required to shoot any trapped feral cat who does not appear to be a Scottish Wildcat. How appearance can be used to definitively judge genetics, and how the language in the trapping application can possibly jibe with the stated goals of the Plan, a mysteries to us.  

The Action Plan appears to support TNR, but...
Scottish National Heritage and Action Plan participants have misled the public. They’ve watched the work of groups like Wildcat Haven succeed, yet have chosen to ignore those successful feral cat management strategies. They’ve also ignored the latest scientific research showing trap-and-kill actually increases the number of feral cats in a given area. (Lazenby here) No wonder the chief scientist for Wildcat Haven, Dr. Paul O’Donoghue, reportedly left his position with the Action Plan in 2014 over concerns with its methods!

SNH has also chosen to IGNORE the public’s support for TNR over lethal control methods. We believe the protocol of killing has remained hidden until now because the leaders of the Action Plan know the public does not support it. So, we must take it upon ourselves to remind them!

Please share your feelings with the top groups and officials involved in the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan on their social media accounts listed below. Tell them you only support humane programs like TNR and that their senseless killing of defenseless cats will not go unnoticed. Spread your message of compassionate cat management even further by liking and sharing each other’s posts. Together we can shine a light on this deadly Plan and expose it for what it is; cruel and inhumane.

Aileen McLeod, Environment Minister. 
   Twitter: @AileenMcLeodMSP

Scottish National Heritage
   Twitter: @SNH_Tweets

Save Our Wildcats/Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan
   Twitter: @SaveOurWildcats

Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
   Twitter: @rzss

Edinburgh Zoo
   Twitter: @EdinburghZoo

photo: Peter Trimming via Flickr/ACR, CC BY 2.0

No comments: