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

  • Dr Helen Senn

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

    Project Manager | Saving Wildcats
  • David Barclay

    Ex-situ Conservation Manager | Saving Wildcats
  • Dr Keri Langridge

    Field Manager | Saving Wildcats
  • Prof. Simon Girling

    Head of Veterinary Services | Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
  • Alice Bacon

    Veterinary Surgeon | Saving Wildcats
  • Stephen Plowman

    Construction Team Leader | Saving Wildcats
  • Gemma Wright

    Outreach & Engagement Officer | Saving Wildcats
  • Ellie Milnes

    Veterinary Surgeon | Saving Wildcats
  • Donna Brown

    Head Veterinary Nurse | Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
  • Rachel Williams

    Wildcat Keeper | Saving Wildcats
  • Sandra-Anne Rainey

    Wildcat Keeper | Saving Wildcats
  • Estelle Morgan

    Wildcat Keeper | Saving Wildcats
  • Louise Hughes

    Conservation Project Officer | Saving Wildcats
  • Alexander Scurrah-Price

    Conservation Project Officer | Saving Wildcats
  • Jamie Sneddon

    Conservation Project Officer | Saving Wildcats
  • Michael Willett

    Conservation Project Officer | Saving Wildcats
  • Katarzyna Ruta

    Conservation Administrator | Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
  • Dr Martin Gaywood

    Species Projects Manager | NatureScot
  • Dr David Hetherington

    Woodland Advisor | Cairngorms National Park Authority
  • Kenny Kortland

    Wildlife Ecologist | Forestry and Land Scotland
  • Emma Nygren

    Head of Conservation Programmes | Nordens Ark
  • Francisco Javier Salcedo Ortiz

    Recovery Plan Coordinator | Junta de Andalucía

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.

David Barclay

Ex-situ Conservation Manager | Saving Wildcats

David manages the animal management team and the conservation breeding programme for Saving Wildcats, which also 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 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.

Prof. Simon Girling

Head of Veterinary Services | Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Simon is the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's head of veterinary services, based at Edinburgh Zoo. 

He is both a Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and a Recognised Specialist in Zoo & Wildlife Medicine since 2003 as well as an EBVS® European Veterinary Specialist in Zoological Medicine since the founding of the College in 2012.

Simon has been heavily involved in the veterinary care of wild felids acting as European veterinary advisor to Pallas’ cat breeding programme, Scottish wildcats and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria Felid Taxon Advisory Group. He is an immediate past president of the European College of Zoological Medicine and set up the first European Qualification Level 8 training programme in the UK on behalf of the College to train the next generation of zoo and wildlife vets. Simon was also the veterinary lead advisor on behalf of the RZSS in the reintroduction of the Eurasian beaver to Scotland.

During the 12 years he has worked for the RZSS, he has published widely on all aspects of zoological and conservation medicine, including peer reviewed UK and Devolved Government commissioned disease risk assessments for release of the Eurasian beaver.

Alice Bacon

Veterinary Surgeon | Saving Wildcats

Alice is the project’s veterinary surgeon, providing veterinary expertise for both the ex-situ breeding centre and the in-situ field work. She is based at the Highland Wildlife Park, where she is part of the RZSS veterinary team, responsible for the health and welfare of all the animals at the park.

Alice has provided veterinary services to in-situ wildlife conservation and research projects for the past ten years, mainly working on Scottish native species recovery projects. She was the veterinary advisor for Scottish Wildcat Action from 2015-2020 and has also worked on conservation projects as far afield as East Africa, Mongolia and Nepal.

Alice graduated from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh in 2009, where she also completed an MSc in Conservation Medicine in 2017 and is now an Honorary Research Fellow. Originally from Aberdeenshire, Alice worked in the Scottish Highlands and Islands as a general mixed practice veterinary surgeon for twelve years before joining RZSS in 2021.

Alice can usually be found up a mountain, in the forest, or in a kayak, where she enjoys the peace and privilege of observing Scotland’s native wildlife.

Stephen Plowman

Construction Team Leader | Saving Wildcats

Steve is based at Highland Wildlife Park. He has a key role to play in turning the design concept of the Conservation for Breeding Release Centre into a reality through the development of technical plans, obtaining planning permission, sourcing materials and managing the build.

 

An experienced ground works engineer and construction site manager, with a passion for natural building techniques and the restoration of vernacular buildings, Steve has managed a large number of construction and conservation projects throughout Scotland. He has most recently been working for RZSS at HWP as Estates Manager and on a self-build restoration of a small 17th century farmstead on the Black Isle. With many years of experience working on remote sites and finding off-grid solutions to construction issues, Steve enjoys the challenge of building enclosed natural habitats for conservation projects in a mountain environment.

Gemma Wright

Outreach & Engagement Officer | Saving Wildcats

Gemma is responsible for working closely with the local community and encouraging stakeholders to play an important part in the restoration of wildcats to the project area.

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. More 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.

Ellie Milnes

Veterinary Surgeon | Saving Wildcats

Ellie is a zoo and wildlife veterinarian based at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park.

Ellie graduated from the University of Cambridge with degrees in zoology and veterinary medicine and began her career in rural large animal practice in New Zealand. From 2015 - 2018 she was a veterinary resident in zoological medicine and pathology at Toronto Zoo in Canada, where she provided veterinary support for endangered species conservation including the black-footed ferret recovery program. She completed a Doctorate in zoological medicine and pathology at the Ontario Veterinary College (University of Guelph) and a MVetSci in conservation medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

Ellie’s postgraduate research includes the epidemiology of vector-borne diseases in wildlife and anaesthesia of Przewalski’s horses. Prior to joining RZSS in 2021, Ellie worked as a veterinary research fellow in wildlife and one health with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Kenya. Ellie is a diplomate of both the American and European Colleges of Zoological Medicine.

Donna Brown

Head Veterinary Nurse | Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Donna is Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's head veterinary nurse, based at Edinburgh Zoo.

She qualified from Bicton College in 1998 whilst working in Devon at a mixed animal practice. She moved to Scotland in 1999 to work at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (RDSVS) Small Animal Hospital, eventually going on to concentrate in exotic animal nursing. In 2001, she gained her City and Guilds Certificate in Veterinary Nursing of Exotic Species.

After leaving the RDSVS in 2007, Donna joined Edinburgh Zoo as the head veterinary nurse. Her work includes assisting the vets with anaesthesia and health assessments of the animals in the collection. Donna is involved with many conservation projects, including Saving Wildcats.

Additionally, Donna’s work also includes the routine in-house laboratory testing of samples required for the care of the animals within the RZSS collections. She has been involved with lecturing both qualified and trainee veterinary nurses on exotic animal nursing and has contributed to several chapters in veterinary textbooks published by the BSAVA.

Rachel Williams

Wildcat Keeper | Saving Wildcats

Rachel has worked at the Highland Wildlife Park for 10 years as a keeper and joined the Saving Wildcats animal management team in February 2021. Her interest in native species, particularly Scottish wildcats and capercaillie, was the reason for joining Highland Wildlife Park back in 2011.

Rachel has been involved with wildcat conservation efforts throughout the last five years, including volunteering with trap-neuter-release programs and camera trap monitoring of potential wildcats in the Badenoch and Strathspey area. Having worked closely with the species for the past decade and contributing to the husbandry guidelines for wildcat captive management, she hopes to have a positive impact on the breeding and release ex-situ programme.

Sandra-Anne Rainey

Wildcat Keeper | Saving Wildcats

Sandra is part of the Saving Wildcats animal management team. She started her zoo career working part time at a safari park while studying for her BSc (Hons) Animal Biology. She has worked as an animal keeper in several UK zoos since graduating in 2006 and also went on to complete the Diploma in the Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals (DMZAA). Sandra has experience working with a range of animals but has a passion for primates and carnivores.  

Sandra particularly enjoys training animals and trying out new enrichment at home with her two rescue cats. She is looking forward to applying her zookeeper skills to the project and helping to ensure the successful breeding and restoration of the Scottish wildcat to Scotland.

Estelle Morgan

Wildcat Keeper | Saving Wildcats

Estelle joined the Saving Wildcats animal management team in January 2021, having previously worked with a variety of unique small mammal species at Cotswold Wildlife Park. 

Throughout her animal keeping career, Estelle has gained a passion for the management and breeding of small carnivores and rodents. Estelle went on to complete her MSc Conservation and Biodiversity in 2015 and her thesis explored the foraging ecology of the Scottish wildcat. She is looking forward to applying her range of skills and experience to the project and helping to safeguard the future of Scotland's wildcats. 

Louise Hughes

Conservation Project Officer | Saving Wildcats

Louise is based at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore and is part of the field team responsible for the on-the-ground preparation work for releasing wildcats and post release monitoring.

After graduating with a BSc in Environmental Resource Management, Louise went on to manage the wildcat breeding project at Aigas Field Centre where her love of wildcats was cemented. She then went on to volunteer with Scottish Wildcat Action, monitoring potential wildcats within Strathspey. She has always had a passion for wildlife, working as a wildlife guide and ecologist across the Highlands. Most recently, she has worked locally as a community ranger for RSPB & Cairngorms Connect.

Alexander Scurrah-Price

Conservation Project Officer | Saving Wildcats

Alex is based at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore and is a member of the project field team.

Alex is part of the team responsible for monitoring the release sites for the project, deploying and monitoring camera traps throughout in order to establish a baseline to assess the suitability for future releases.

He has an MSc in Endangered Species Recovery and Conservation and has previous experience undertaking protected species ecological surveys in the East Midlands.

Jamie Sneddon

Conservation Project Officer | Saving Wildcats

Jamie is based at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park, where he works as part of the Saving Wildcats field team.

After graduating with a BSc (hons) Zoology, he focused on building a career with an emphasis on Scottish wildlife conservation. His varied roles to date have included flying birds of prey, radio collaring red squirrels and conducting camera trap surveys.

Jamie has followed the Scottish wildcat's decline over the years and is now delighted to be using his diverse skillset to help save this iconic species.

Michael Willett

Conservation Project Officer | Saving Wildcats

Michael is based at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park, where he is part of the Saving Wildcats field team. 

Passionate about wildcat restoration in Scotland, and having worked with both Eurasian and Iberian lynx, his main interest lies within the field of European felid conservation. 

Michael has a BSc (hons) Wildlife and Practical Conservation, where his dissertation was titled ‘The Feral Cat: Behaviour, Biology and Ecology'. He has also completed an MSc in Wildlife Conservation and his thesis investigated and researched the factors that influence a successful carnivore reintroduction.

Katarzyna Ruta

Conservation Administrator | Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Kasia is the Conservation Administrator for RZSS and the Saving Wildcats project. She is responsible for a variety of financial and administrative tasks including procurement and maintaining records for reporting to the EU.

 

Kasia has been associated with RZSS for several years, as a student, a volunteer, a research consultant, and now in her current role. Over this time, she has been involved in various conservation projects, including the Scottish Beavers Reinforcement Project, and supporting global conservation efforts for the Pallas’s cat.

 

She also has a background in felid-oriented research, particularly the smaller-bodied species - as part of her Master’s thesis in Animal Behaviour and Welfare she investigated threats to and conservation behaviour of two small cats, the Pallas’s cat and the wildcat. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Francisco Javier Salcedo Ortiz

Recovery Plan Coordinator | Junta de Andalucía

Javier is the Coordinator of the Plan for the Recovery of the Iberian Lynx in Andalusia / Consejería de Agricultura, Ganadería, Pesca y Desarrollo Sostenible (CAGPyDS) de la Junta de Andalucía.

Javier has a degree in Environmental Sciences and Agricultural Engineering. He has worked in the administration of the Regional Government of the Junta de Andalucía for more than 20 years. Since 2009, he has been working on the management of programmes conserving threatened fauna, including a variety of raptors and the Iberian lynx, as well as the fight against poisoning and other prohibited methods of capture. He has participated in different projects related to these issues and is currently working on the coordination of the Iberian Lynx Recovery Plan, as well as the direction of the Life LynxConnect project, which is "creating a genetically and demographically functional Iberian Lynx metapopulation". He also coordinates the participation of the CAGPyDS in other Life projects, including Safe Crossing and SWAforLIFE. Javier has field work experience with a range of species and has focused on the management of interactions between human activities and wildlife. He has participated in various publications related to these fields of work and in the drafting of strategies, recovery and conservation plans and programmes for threatened species.

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.