Our vision

Wildcats restored to landscapes across Scotland, cherished by people for generations to come

Saving Wildcats (#SWAforLife) is a European partnership project dedicated to Scottish wildcat conservation and recovery.

We aim to prevent the extinction of wildcats in Scotland by breeding and releasing them into the wild.

Building on the work of Scottish Wildcat Action, the first national conservation plan for wildcats, Saving Wildcats will:

  • Establish Britain's first large-scale dedicated conservation ‘breeding for release’ centre for wildcats.

In a quiet location at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park in the Cairngorms National Park, the centre will bring together wildcat experts, a dedicated veterinary unit and a specialised pre-release training programme to help develop the necessary life skills needed for life in the wild.

  • Grow the population of wildcats through release of wildcats into the wild.

Following a pre-release training programme to prepare for life in the wild, 20 wildcats will be released each year, potentially in an area within the Cairngorms National Park. All released wildcats will wear a special (GPS) collar so their movements and behaviour can be recorded.

  • Continue to remove the threats facing wildcats in the Highlands to create other safe areas for wildcat reintroductions.

In the longer term, wildcat releases will extend to other locations in Scotland. The centre could also support other well-planned efforts across the UK.

  • Work with local communities to understand how best people can benefit from the presence of wildcats.

Saving Wildcats is as much about people as it is about wildcats, helping to boost local economies through wildlife tourism as well as supporting longer term employment.

Our team

  • David Barclay

    Ex-situ Conservation Manager | Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
  • Dr David Hetherington

    Woodland Advisor | Cairngorms National Park Authority
  • Dr Helen Senn

    Head of Conservation and Science Programmes | Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
  • Dr Ian Simpson

    Project Manager | Saving Wildcats
  • Dr Keri Langridge

    Field Manager | Saving Wildcats
  • Dr Martin Gaywood

    Species Projects Manager | NatureScot
  • Emma Nygren

    Head of Conservation Programmes | Nordens Ark
  • Gemma Wright

    Saving Wildcats Outreach & Engagement Officer | Saving Wildcats
  • Kenny Kortland

    Wildlife Ecologist | Forestry and Land Scotland

David Barclay

Ex-situ Conservation Manager | Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

David manages the conservation breeding programme for Saving Wildcats which involves coordinating the captive wildcat population across UK zoos and private collections.

David's main area of interest is with carnivore conservation, and more specifically felid based conservation and research issues.

Most of his recent work and experience has been focusing on captive management and breeding programme management whilst establishing global conservation projects for Pallas's cats. This work has allowed David to create new conservation networks between zoological institutions and active in-situ field teams with the long-term goal of improving global awareness of small cat species and effective conservation efforts. 

Dr David Hetherington

Woodland Advisor | Cairngorms National Park Authority

An environmental geography graduate, David worked for Highland Birchwoods on the remote sensing of Scotland’s woodland cover, before returning to university to complete a PhD on the feasibility of reintroducing Eurasian lynx to Scotland. Since 2005, he has worked in a variety of ecological roles for the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA). From 2009 to 2012 he managed the Cairngorms Wildcat Project, which trialled many of the methods being employed by Saving Wildcats today. Now as CNPA Woodland Advisor he helps to deliver strategic woodland expansion across the national park. He recently published a book, The Lynx and Us, which explores the complex relationship between people and Europe’s most enigmatic large carnivore.

Dr Helen Senn

Head of Conservation and Science Programmes | Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Helen is the Head of Conservation and Science programmes at RZSS, where she is responsible for managing conservations work on 23 species in Scotland and around the world.

Having worked on wildcats since 2013 including publishing on hybridisation, Helen is the chair of the Saving Wildcats Project Management Group and is personally passionate about restoring wildcats to Scotland.

Dr Ian Simpson

Project Manager | Saving Wildcats

Ian is based at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore and responsible for the day-to-day management of the project on behalf of the partners and co-funders.

Having trained and practiced as an ecologist in his early career, Ian then held several operational and management positions on route to specialising in project management. He has over 20 years’ experience of managing environmental projects including Scottish Government, UK Government and EU funded consortium projects.

He feels passionately about his role and aims to build a world class team that will ensure this iconic species has an opportunity to thrive again in landscapes across Scotland.

Dr Keri Langridge

Field Manager | Saving Wildcats

Keri manages the in-situ conservation side of the project, planning and implementing the field programme and managing the field team. She is based at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore.

Keri has worked in the field with Scottish wildcats for the past five years as a Project Officer for Scottish Wildcat Action, where she coordinated the monitoring and conservation action in three of the six Wildcat Priority Areas (Strathpeffer, Morvern, and Strathspey). In 2019, Keri was awarded a Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship to travel around Europe and meet with researchers across the continent to research the drivers of hybridisation in different wildcat populations. She is currently completing a 250-page review on the subject to help inform conservation strategy in Scotland and further afield.

Keri originally trained as a research scientist and has a PhD and Postdoctoral experience in Behavioural Ecology. She worked as a field ecologist in Scotland for a number of years and volunteered/worked for conservation projects around the world (usually in nice warm countries with whales and dolphins). She also worked for Cats Protection as an Education Officer and has volunteered with the local branch for the past few years to help with Trap Neuter Return of feral domestic cats.

Dr Martin Gaywood

Species Projects Manager | NatureScot

Following postdoctoral work at CSIRO Australia, Martin moved to Scottish Natural Heritage (now called NatureScot) where he has been coordinating research, survey and conservation action for a range of plant, invertebrate and vertebrate species for over 25 years. Between 2007-12 he managed the ’Species Action Framework’ programme of targeted management for 32 priority species (including wildcat). Currently Species Projects Manager, he now coordinates the National Species Reintroduction Forum, is the NatureScot specialist for conservation translocation work, and has played a leading role in beaver reintroduction since 2000. He is a member of the IUCN Conservation Translocation Specialist Group.  Since 2016 he was NatureScot lead for Scottish Wildcat Action and associated work, and lives in wildcat country in the Highlands.

Emma Nygren

Head of Conservation Programmes | Nordens Ark

Emma is a conservation biologist and the Head of Conservation programmes at Nordens Ark in Sweden. She is responsible for the management of Nordens Arks conservation programmes both nationally and internationally.


Nordens Ark specialise in breeding, rearing and reintroduction of endangered species both in Sweden and abroad. The key focus of Emma’s work is the development, monitoring and evaluation of conservation activities as well as managing partnerships and internal and external conservation communications.


Emma’s main interest lie in conservation breeding and reintroduction of threatened species and she is therefore thrilled to be able to be part of the restoration of the wildcat in Scotland.

Gemma Wright

Saving Wildcats Outreach & Engagement Officer | Saving Wildcats

Gemma’s education and earlier career was largely based around animal behaviour and welfare, having worked for the RSPCA and veterinary practices in northwest England, and as a dog behaviourist thereafter. However, she has always been passionate about wildlife, particularly native species, which eventually led her to the Cairngorms National Park. Since then, Gemma has worked for RZSS over a number of years, including as an animal keeper at the Highland Wildlife Park. She has been involved with a number of conservation projects, including predator monitoring surveys in Slovakia. Most recently, she worked as the Communications Coordinator for SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, a charity dedicated to rewilding advocacy.

Gemma has previous experience with trapping and caring for feral cats, and when she later volunteered with Scottish Wildcat Action, she assisted in monitoring potential wildcats within Strathspey and Badenoch.

In this role, Gemma will be working closely with the local community and encouraging them to play an important part in the restoration of wildcats to the project area.

Kenny Kortland

Wildlife Ecologist | Forestry and Land Scotland

Kenny is involved in a wide range of conservation projects all across Scotland and provides advice to FLS colleagues on how to reconcile forest management with wildlife conservation on a daily basis.

He has two ecology degrees and leads on applied ecology research for FLS, which focusses on understanding the responses of wildlife to timber production activities and recreation. Kenny initiated and manages the Cairngorms Connect Predator Project and has a long-standing interest in vertebrate predators and their prey. He has worked extensively on grouse, particularly capercaillie, and is a member of the IUCN Galliformes Specialist Group.  Kenny monitors raptors in his local patch near Inverness and is a member of Highland Raptor Study Group.

Our partners

This project brings together the expertise and skills of national and international organisations. With this partnership approach, Saving Wildcats has a solid foundation and a framework for success.

The conservation breeding and release of wildcats is being carried out by the Saving Wildcats partnership led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) in collaboration with NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage), Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS), The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), Norden’s Ark and Junta de Andalucía.

The project is funded with the contribution of the LIFE Programme of the European Union and the generous support of the Garfield Weston Foundation, The National Trust for Scotland, The People’s Trust for Endangered Species and The European Nature Trust.