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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dr Helen SennHead of Conservation and Science Programmes | Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
David BarclayEx-situ Conservation Manager | Saving Wildcats
Dr Keri LangridgeIn-situ Conservation Manager | Saving Wildcats
Helena ParsonsOutreach and Engagement Manager | Saving Wildcats
Prof. Simon GirlingHead of Veterinary Services | Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
Dr Alice BaconVeterinary Surgeon | Saving Wildcats
Dr Rebecca AmosVeterinary Surgeon | Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
Louise StottVeterinary Nurse | Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
Rachel WilliamsWildcat Keeper | Saving Wildcats
Sandra-Anne RaineyWildcat Keeper | Saving Wildcats
Estelle MorganWildcat Keeper | Saving Wildcats
Alex PerryWildcat Keeper | Saving Wildcats
Louise HughesIn-situ Project Officer | Saving Wildcats
Alexander Scurrah-PriceIn-situ Project Officer | Saving Wildcats
Jamie SneddonIn-situ Project Officer | Saving Wildcats
Lara SempleIn-situ Project Officer | Saving Wildcats
Shona IrvineIn-situ Project Assistant | Saving Wildcats
Claudia BellConservation Project Officer (LIFE Reporting) | Saving Wildcats
Gemma WrightOutreach & Engagement Officer | Saving Wildcats
Dr Ian SimpsonProject Support | Saving Wildcats
Dr Martin GaywoodSpecies Projects Manager | NatureScot
Dr David HetheringtonWoodland Advisor | Cairngorms National Park Authority
Kenny KortlandWildlife Ecologist | Forestry and Land Scotland
Emma NygrenHead of Conservation Programmes | Nordens Ark
Francisco Javier Salcedo OrtizRecovery Plan Coordinator | Junta de Andalucía
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.
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.
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.
Helena is based at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore. She is responsible for engaging the local community and stakeholders with the ongoing efforts to restore Scotland’s wildcats.
Helena realised her passion for wildcat conservation during her BSc Geography, researching the public’s perceptions of wildcats for her dissertation, and continued researching the plight of Scotland’s wildcats during her MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management.
She has worked in the USA to engage communities in wildlife conservation and captive big cat welfare, and has held a number of engagement and outreach positions in the UK. As a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), Helena is excited to use her knowledge of public engagement to further the work of Saving Wildcats.
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 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.
Rebecca graduated from Nottingham School of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery in 2012 and has been working with wildlife species ever since. She has provided veterinary support to conservation and welfare projects both abroad, in South Africa and India, as well as in Scotland and the South West of England.
In 2018 she completed a Masters Degree in Conservation Medicine at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh.
She joined the team in 2022 having come from Paignton Zoo in Devon and now provides veterinary care for the Highland Wildlife Park as well as support for the Saving Wildcats project.
When she's not at work, she's likely to be swimming in a loch or river despite the cold!
Louise qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in 2017 after completing Veterinary Nursing BSc at Middlesex University. She has always been passionate about conservation and helping wild animals, and has previously volunteered in zoos and worked with wild animals in Africa.
Since qualifying she has worked in a variety of practices including in first opinion, emergency and referral and in 2020 completed the Vets Now certificate in emergency and critical care. She then went on to teach veterinary nursing and animal management students before joining the team in May 2022.
She likes all animals but has a particular soft spot for cats, so is very excited to be involved with 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 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 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.
Alex joined the Saving Wildcats Animal Management team in September 2022. Since graduating from St Andrews University with a BSC (hons) in Behavioural and Environmental biology in 2006, Alex has worked with a range of species (focusing on primates and birds of prey) within UK zoos.
She joined the project with a strong interest in playing a more direct role in the conservation of at-risk populations of native species.
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.
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 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.
Lara is based at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore and is a member of the field team.
Lara graduated with an MSc in International Nature Conservation from Georg-August University in Germany which included research in New Zealand, India and Australia. She also volunteered with Scottish Wildcat Action during the 2017-18 winter field season and has experience volunteering with Cats Protection on trap-neuter-return work.
Lara is passionate about conservation of British mammals and feels very privileged to work on restoring the Highland tiger.
Shona is based at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park and joined the Saving Wildcats team in October 2023. She is part of the team on the ground responsible for the post-release monitoring of the wildcats throughout the Cairngorms National Park.
After graduating with a MSc in Wildlife Conservation she returned to the Cairngorms to work on National Nature Reserves across the Highlands, carry out habitat restoration work and manage mountain path access and volunteer tasks. Shona looks forward to combining her landscape-scale conservation experience with species specific fieldwork.
Claudia is responsible for providing project support, administration and EU LIFE project reporting and is based at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park.
Claudia has a BA in Politics and International Relations and an MSc in Global Environment, Politics and Society. During her studies she realised her passion for wildlife reintroductions to restore ecosystems and biodiversity. She is interested in restoring Scotland’s landscape to what it once was and is excited to have such an active role in this process and be a part of an important conservation effort.
Gemma is responsible for encouraging stakeholders to play an important part in the restoration of wildcats to the project area remotely through social media engagement, graphic design and project support.
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.
Ian provides support for the project remotely on a part-time basis and is responsible for financial reporting.
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 wants to ensure wildcats have an opportunity to thrive again in landscapes across Scotland.
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.
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 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 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.
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.