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Scottish Wildcat on verge of extinction?!

  • 14-09-2012 11:56am
    #1
    Administrators, Computer Games Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 30,845 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭ Mickeroo


    This is pretty troubling news I have to say. The Scottish Wildcat Association seem to think it could be extinct within months with only 35 pure bred individuals thought to be left.

    Acat.jpg
    Scottish wildcats will be extinct in the wild within months as numbers of pure-bred cats have fallen to about 35 individuals, conservationists warn.

    A team put together by the Scottish Wildcat Association (SWA) reviewed 2,000 records of camera trap sightings, eyewitness reports and also road kills.

    SWA said the analysis suggested there could be 35 wildcats - far fewer than previously thought.

    One of the biggest threats seems to be interbreeding with feral and domestic cats.

    More here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-19569538


Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,771 ✭✭✭ Birdnuts


    They will have to take some into captivity to prevent the species vanishing totally. They did something similiar with the Spanish Lynx a few years back and have now re-estaiblished a number of populations from animals bred in capitivity.


  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]


    How many individuals would be needed to maintain adequate genetic diversity in the population? Is 35 (unrelated) individuals even enough?


  • Administrators, Computer Games Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 30,845 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭ Mickeroo


    gvn wrote: »
    How many individuals would be needed to maintain adequate genetic diversity in the population? Is 35 (unrelated) individuals even enough?

    Don't know the full ins and outs with how it works. According to this pdf I found, in captive breeding (in general, not specifically wild cats) they aim for maintaining 90% genetic diversity as a compromise of sorts:
    The more gene diversity one wishes to retain in the
    captive population, the larger the captive population required to be able to achieve this. The
    90% target is therefore thought to be an acceptable compromise between losing a small
    amount of gene diversity (and as a consequence accepting a moderate level of inbreeding),
    but being able to achieve this with smaller captive population sizes

    Source: http://www.kasparek-verlag.de/PDF%20Abstracts/PDF-SUPP3%20Weboptimiert/151-158%20Leus.pdf

    I'd imagine a similar principle would apply here but I think that would be near impossible to pull off with such a small population, they would have to catch all 35 individuals to have any chance at keeping it at a healthy level I would think.

    It's not looking good for them is it? :(


  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]


    Thanks for the link, it'll make for some interesting reading.
    Mickeroo wrote: »
    It's not looking good for them is it?

    Nope, not at all. If there are only 35 individuals (perhaps there are some in captivity already?) I'd doubt they'll survive in the long term. Maybe there's another European wild cat that they could be interbred with? I'm not sure. I've always wanted to visit the Scottish highlands and try to see one, but given their rarity that would be impossible.


  • Administrators, Computer Games Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 30,845 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭ Mickeroo


    gvn wrote: »


    Nope, not at all. If there are only 35 individuals (perhaps there are some in captivity already?) I'd doubt they'll survive in the long term. Maybe there's another European wild cat that they could be interbred with? I'm not sure. I've always wanted to visit the Scottish highlands and try to see one, but given their rarity that would be impossible.

    I think I read somewhere the scottish wildcat is a genetically unique species in it's own right so interbreeding with other wildcats would effectively mean extinction too, though it might be preferable to letting them die out since a hybrid could still fill their niche in the food chain.

    I've been up there, unfortunately i didn't manage to spot one, I'd imagine you have to be very lucky to see one, even when their population was more plentiful.

    I think the worst part of this is it seems up until this recent study they thought the population was considerably larger. The conservationists weren't prepared for this at all.


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  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]


    Mickeroo wrote: »
    I think I read somewhere the scottish wildcat is a genetically unique species in it's own right so interbreeding with other wildcats would effectively mean extinction too, though it might be preferable to letting them die out since a hybrid could still fill their niche in the food chain.

    Ah right, I see. A few months ago I was reading about the European Wildcat, and I just assumed the Scottish variant was a subspecies with minimal genetic differences. Still, as you say, if it's going to go extinct anyway, having a related subspecies fill its slot in the Scottish ecosystem might not be a bad thing.
    I've been up there, unfortunately i didn't manage to spot one, I'd imagine you have to be very lucky to see one, even when their population was more plentiful.

    I think the worst part of this is it seems up until this recent study they thought the population was considerably larger. The conservationists weren't prepared for this at all.

    I'd thought that myself. I remember reading a few months ago that their numbers were in the hundreds.


  • Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 3,037 Mod ✭✭✭✭ OpenYourEyes


    At least 2 studies have been done (both published in 2001 I think) that reckon there's no purebred Wildcats left in Scotland! They looked at genetic samples and found that there was a group that were the most wild, but they probably had some historic domestic ancestry. So they said Scotland is now home to a morphological cline, rather than having any ‘pure’ Wildcats, with one end characterised by the most-wild Cats in terms of morphology and genotype, and the other by feral or wild-living Domestics.

    Its a huge task to preserve the "purebred" Wildcat population now, given the comparitive size of the hybrid population, the fact that domestic cats are probably all over Scotland too, the small sized population a captive breeding programme would actually have access too, all of the feline diseases that have been and are still spread by domestics/hybrids etc. And from what I remember, differentiating between "purebreds" and hybrids in the field is often a lot more difficult than you'd think, so thats another problem for controlling hybrids and capturing purebreds!


  • Registered Users Posts: 354 ✭✭ Hollzy


    I realise that 35 is a tiny number and the outlook is bleak but it is possible to build up a healthy population from such numbers. The European Bison almost went extinct but today there are approximately 3000 of them, all descended from 12 individuals. I remember hearing about it on a visit to Fota Wildlife Park. There's a small amount of information about it on Wikipedia if you look under Conservation/Reproduction.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_bison#Reintroduction


  • Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 3,037 Mod ✭✭✭✭ OpenYourEyes


    Hollzy wrote: »
    I realise that 35 is a tiny number and the outlook is bleak but it is possible to build up a healthy population from such numbers. The European Bison almost went extinct but today there are approximately 3000 of them, all descended from 12 individuals. I remember hearing about it on a visit to Fota Wildlife Park. There's a small amount of information about it on Wikipedia if you look under Conservation/Reproduction.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_bison#Reintroduction

    Wow, never realised the population went that low!

    The Mauritius Kestrel population went as low as 3 or 4 adults, and now there's over 800 and the population is still growing!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauritius_Kestrel

    So from a genetic perspective it's certainly not impossible. Hopefully there's sufficient political and public backing for a project to help them sufficiently!


  • Registered Users Posts: 354 ✭✭ Hollzy


    Wow, that's amazing. Hopefully. Projects of this kind tend to get more support in Scotland generally, and the success rate seems to be a lot higher than it would be here.

    Here's an article I found. It discusses some DNA testing techniques being developed to hopefully help the situation http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/2012/08/01/dna-test-could-help-save-scottish-wildcat-from-extinctionif-it-still-exists/


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