SWAforLIFE - SWAforLIFE: Scottish Wildcat Action Phase 2 Wildcat recovery through threat mitigation and translocation

LIFE18 NAT/UK/000995

Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Print   PDF version  

Contact details:

Contact person: Celia Brady
Tel: 441313349171
Email: cbrady@rzss.org.uk

Project description:


Wildcats in Scotland (Scottish wildcats) are a critically endangered sub-population of the European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) and are the last remaining wild felid species in the UK. The European wildcat is listed in Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive, and the UK conservation status is assessed as bad/declining (Article 17 Report) with a current population estimate for wildcats in Scotland of only 200 animals. The greatest threat to wildcats is from domestic cats (Felis catus) which create problems through hybridisation, competition for territory and resources, disease transfer, and accidental killing of wildcats during invasive species control. In reality the wildcat population is likely to be non-viable and will not recover with in-situ conservation action alone, requiring reinforcement to ensure long term recovery.


The aim of the SWAforLIFE project is to re-establish a genetically and demographically viable wildcat population in the Scottish Highlands, through threat mitigation and population reinforcement, to reverse the population decline of Scottish wildcats.

The project has the following specific objectives:

  • to remove threats to wildcats from a release site within the Scottish Highlands;
  • to increase the population of wildcats at the release site through augmentation;
  • to establish a source population of wildcats suitable for release; and
  • to support the reduction of risk to wildcats across the rest of the Scottish Highlands by developing a framework for the long-term sustainability and socioeconomic benefits of wildcat conservation and the SWAforLIFE project results within Scotland and Europe.

SWAforLIFE will support further management of the Natura 2000 network via restoration of an apex-predator species, whose survival is linked to the favourable condition of priority Habitats Directive habitats, including Caledonian forest, Juniperus communis formations on heaths or calcareous grasslands and Dry heaths.

By measurably increasing the wildcat population and controlling invasive alien species (i.e. feral cats), the project will contribute to the implementation of the Habitats Directive, the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020, and other related policy.


Expected results:

  • by 2020, release site in Natura 2000 landscape with carrying capacity of 40-60 wildcats demarcated via written agreement with landowners;
  • by 2022, >95% feral cats removed at site via TNVR (Trap Neuter Vaccinate Return);
  • by 2025, 95% of cat owners in release site and 1 km buffer zone have neutered/vaccinated/microchipped domestic cats;
  • by 2025, 95% of landowners in release site and buffer zone have adopted wildcat stewardship pledge;
  • by 2023, 20 cats released from RZSS facility, with intensive post-release monitoring;
  • by 2025, 40 further cats released, achieving a 6-month post release survival of over 50%;
  • at 5 years beyond project end, population of 60 wildcats remain across Cairngorms, which are connected with a new population of 20 cats established by further translocations (evidenced by camera data);
  • by 2022, captive breeding population augmented with >10 founders, a Long-Term Management Plan in place, and integrated management plan with European programme established;
  • by 2021, facility suitable for breeding and pre-release training of 60 wildcats established in Cairngorms National Park;
  • by 2025, RZSS facility has bred and prepared 60 cats for release;
  • by 2022, have captured and genetically sampled >5 potential wildcats with protection plan in place; and
  • by 2022, have provided responsible cat ownership advice and data to Scottish Government via project report detailing results of pet owner campaigns.

  • Top

Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Mammals


conservation of genetic resources‚  monitoring‚  introduction of animal species‚  nature conservation

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Regulation 1143/2014 - Prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien ...
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 ...
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...

Natura 2000 sites

SCI UK0016412 Cairngorms



Coordinator Royal Zoological Society for Scotland
Partners NA(Nordens Ark), Sweden CMAYOT(Consejeria de medio Ambiete y Ordenacion del Territorio de la Junta De Andalucia), Spain CNPA(Cairngorms National Park Authority), United Kingdom SNH(Scottish Natural Heritage), United Kingdom FLS(Forestry and Land Scotland), United Kingdom


Project reference LIFE18 NAT/UK/000995
Duration 01-OCT-2019 to 30-SEP -2025
Total budget 6,137,268.00 €
EU contribution 3,682,360.00 €
Project location


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version