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British conservationists are being trained to breed wild cats in captivity so that they can be reintroduced into rural parts of Cornwall, Devon and central Wales.
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British conservationists are being trained to breed wild cats in captivity so that they can be reintroduced into rural parts of Cornwall, Devon and Central Wales.

Although they resemble their domestic counterparts, wildcats are indomitable animals that are closer to their behavior towards large cats such as leopards.

Extensive culling by game keepers meant that wild boar were not seen in England and Wales in about 150 years, although there is still a small population in Scotland.

That was their renowned cruelty, which a 15th-century hunting author noticed: & # 39; If a beast has the power of the devil, it is the wild cat. & # 39;

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Although free-range farmers can lose the strange chicken to re-introduced wild cats, experts believe they are less disturbing than foxes and can help combat pests.

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British conservationists are being trained to breed wild cats in captivity so that they can be reintroduced into rural parts of Cornwall, Devon and central Wales.

British conservationists are being trained to breed wild cats in captivity so that they can be reintroduced into rural parts of Cornwall, Devon and central Wales.

WHAT DO WE KNOW OF EUROPEAN WILDCATS?

The European wild cats are larger than their domestic counterparts and descend from the relatively tame subspecies of the African wild cat.

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Wildcats eat birds, rabbits and rodents – but usually no lambs.

It is a common misconception that the felines prefer dense forest – in fact, they like well-overgrown agricultural land.

Wild strikes can be found on mainland Europe, in Turkey and in the Caucasus.

They have not been seen in southern England since the 16th century, although some remain in Scotland.

Culling by gamekeepers has radically reduced their number.

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Now they can be bred for release into the Cornish, Devon and Mid Wales countryside.

Major cat connoisseur and wildcat breeder Marianne Hartmann has trained British conservationists in the methods she used to re-introduce wildcats in Bavaria.

Targeted rural areas for reintroduction in the UK include those in Cornwall, Devon and Mid-Wales, which would be the most suitable habitats for feral cats, a feasibility study by the Vincent Wildlife Trust has suggested.

It is a common misconception that the felines prefer to live in dense forests – in fact, they like to stay on well-planted farmland.

Despite their reputation as beasts with & # 39; the power of the devil & # 39 ;, to quote the writings of a 15th-century hunter, culls have wasted wild populations.

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They have not been registered in the south of England since the 16th century, although there is still a small population in Scotland.

However, this stream of cats has become unattainable, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, with only 30 members in the population exhibiting a high degree of hybridization with domestic cats.

& # 39; There is nothing left of the Scottish population & # 39 ;, says ecologist Derek Gow, who has successfully re-introduced beavers and water mice in the UK, the Guardian.

Mr. Gow has recently set up an unreliable breeding facility in Devon.

Experts believe that the wildcat strikes hybridized in Scotland because hunting overseers reduced the population by clearing the male wild cats to mate with wild cats to survive.

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& # 39; It was a good attempt, & # 39; Mr. Gow said about efforts to support the Scottish people.

& # 39; But this is the last chance salon and we have to do things completely differently and have a large livable breeding population in captivity & # 39 ;, he added.

& # 39; We need to do this kind of restoration now and on a much larger scale than we have ever considered. & # 39;

Although they resemble their domestic counterparts, wildcats are indomitable animals that are closer to their behavior towards large cats such as leopards.

Although they resemble their domestic counterparts, wildcats are indomitable animals that are closer to their behavior towards large cats such as leopards.

Although they resemble their domestic counterparts, wildcats are indomitable animals that are closer to their behavior towards large cats such as leopards.

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The first step in the reintroduction is to breed enough wild cats in captivity to support a long-term release.

& # 39; We need to take animals from Swiss and German zoos, build up a stock, and have captive cats capable of producing 150 kittens a year & # 39 ;, said Mr. Gow.

Wildcats are already being bred by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

In Germany, Mrs. Hartmann initially provided 100 wild-brown wildcats to support a reintroduction program that eventually brought about 700 of the cats back into the wild.

The project has even seen the budding cat population expand to the Czech Republic.

Extensive culling by game keepers meant that wild boar were not seen in England and Wales in about 150 years, although a small population remains in Scotland
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Extensive culling by game keepers meant that wild boar were not seen in England and Wales in about 150 years, although a small population remains in Scotland

Extensive culling by game keepers meant that wild boar were not seen in England and Wales in about 150 years, although a small population remains in Scotland

Mrs. Hartmann has a lot of advice for prospective breeders on how to handle the easily stressed animals – such as talking softly to them and offering more holes in enclosures where the cats can hide and feel safe.

Her methods seem very successful, with the queens of Mrs. Hartmann producing an average of four kittens per litter.

Most wild coats in captivity produce only one or two young at a time.

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She trains the kittens to hunt with the help of an automatic feeder that drops dead mice onto elastic cords.

By learning their jump on the bouncing prey, the cats learn to improve their killer instinct and exert the death-inducing bite that they inflict on the neck of their prey.

As with the Scottish wild cat population, the main hurdle to overcome when re-introducing wild cats elsewhere in the UK will prevent hybridization with wild domestic cats.

Conservationists will have to remove large numbers of feral cats from the chosen reintroduction zones before the wild cats can be released.

However, according to Hartmann, the hybridization risks are overvalued, because male wildcats usually kill all domestic cats they encounter, rather than mating with them, unless they can't find a female feral cat to work with during mating season.

Although free-range farmers can lose the strange chicken to re-introduced wild cats, experts believe they are less disturbing than foxes and can combat pests.
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Although free-range farmers can lose the strange chicken to re-introduced wild cats, experts believe they are less disturbing than foxes and can combat pests.

Although free-range farmers can lose the strange chicken to re-introduced wild cats, experts believe they are less disturbing than foxes and can combat pests.

The European wild cats are larger than their domestic counterparts and originate from the continent and are descended from the relatively tame subspecies of the African wild cat.

& # 39; Wild cats at home look like a cat, but they look like leopards & # 39 ;, Mrs. Hartmann said.

& # 39; I have been working with leopards for years and the only difference is size, and leopards are becoming tame. & # 39;

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& # 39; If you raise lions or tigers by hand, they remain tame for the rest of their lives.

& # 39; Wildcats cannot be tamed under any circumstances. This is very special. & # 39;

A code of best practice for reintroduction projects is being developed by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

However, a license to release wild cats in England is not required because the animals can still be found in the wild in Scotland.

& # 39; The movement and distribution of all species in England, including feral cats, must follow the guidelines of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature & # 39 ;, said a spokesperson for Defra.

& # 39; These guidelines ensure that clear environmental and socio-economic benefits can be achieved when animals are released and that their welfare is maintained. & # 39;

It is a common misconception that the felines prefer to live in dense forests - in fact, they like to stay on well-planted farmland

It is a common misconception that the felines prefer to live in dense forests - in fact, they like to stay on well-planted farmland

It is a common misconception that the felines prefer to live in dense forests – in fact, they like to stay on well-planted farmland

Although farmers are initially alarmed by the prospect of untamable cats roaming the British countryside, Ms. Hartmann said that wildcats never attack lambs.

They would pose a threat to free-range chickens, she noted, however, that such activity would be less destructive than foxes, because the cats only take one bird at a time.

In contrast, wild boar's preference for hunting pests such as rabbits and rodents could be beneficial to farmers.

"Wildcats do not pose a threat to people who are not self-sufficient farmers, and we are not farmers for livelihood in this country," said Mr. Gow.

Targeted rural areas for reintroduction in the UK include those in Cornwall, Devon and Mid-Wales, which would be the most suitable habitats for feral cats, a feasibility study by the Vincent Wildlife Trust has suggested

Targeted rural areas for reintroduction in the UK include those in Cornwall, Devon and Mid-Wales, which would be the most suitable habitats for feral cats, a feasibility study by the Vincent Wildlife Trust has suggested

Targeted rural areas for reintroduction in the UK include those in Cornwall, Devon and Mid-Wales, which would be the most suitable habitats for feral cats, a feasibility study by the Vincent Wildlife Trust has suggested

According to Hartmann, the obstacles to re-entering wildcats are 95% political, 5% conservation and nothing to do with the animals themselves.

& # 39; The most promising program is in England and Wales, & # 39; she said.

& # 39; The wild cat was there in the past, there is still habitat and the most challenging is the wild cats, & # 39; she added.

& # 39; If you manage that, it can be a huge success. & # 39;

& # 39; But a reintroduction is a life's work. It is 20 to 30 years. It is not just the release of animals. & # 39;

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