- Wildcat project 2021–2023
- Completed projects
Wildcat project 2021–2023
CONSERVATION OF THE WILDCAT IN SWITZERLAND AND IN EUROPE
This project is the follow-up to our project “The return of the European wildcat (Felis silvestris) – Promotion of recolonisation and surveillance of population development in Switzerland” which ran from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2020. The questions and aims of the project are aligned to the findings of the preceding project. The project is divided into four subject areas:
SURVEILLANCE OF THE POPULATION DEVELOPMENT AND FURTHER POPULATION OF THE MIDDLE COUNTRY
In the survey areas of Bucheggberg (Solothurn/Bern) and the Vaud Plateau, we continue to monitor the spread of the wildcat into the Plateau.
The area in Vaud was expanded during the second survey (winter 2021/2021), and the new survey parameter is also partly in the canton of Fribourg.
In both areas, the presence of wildcats was confirmed, first by means of photo traps and then also by genetic analysis of hair samples. This also confirmed the assumption that in Bucheggberg, unlike in the Vaudois Plateau, there are more hybrid individuals.
The photo trap survey in the Bucheggberg area will be continued every year during the same period, with the aim of observing the course of (re)colonisation and following how the relationship between wild cats and domestic cats and hybrid individuals is developing.
CO-EXISTENCE OF WILDCATS AND DOMESTIC CATS
Hybridisation of wildcats with domestic cats is a potential threat to the wildcat population. New genetic analyses have allowed determining the degree of hybridisation within some wildcat population, but we still do not understand the ethological, population biological and ecological mechanisms promoting or hindering hybridisation: do wildcats perceive domestic cats as conspecifics? Do hybrids show the same fitness as pure species? Is hybridisation a continuing process or do hybrids disappear from the population again?
Using the Bucheggberg study area as an example, we are investigating these questions. We are also examining the domestic cat population in Bucheggberg in more detail. Within the framework of a Master's thesis, movement patterns of domestic cats are analysed and the domestic cat density for the Bucheggberg region is calculated.
The investigation, marking and telemetric monitoring of several wild cats, domestic cats and hybrid individuals are now providing new insights into the behaviour and interactions of the cats with each other. For this part of the project, we are working closely with the FIWI of the University of Bern.
AWARENESS RAISING AMONG EXPERTS AND INFORMATION OF THE PUBLIC
Together with the animal welfare organisation Kompanima of the Haldimann Foundation, KORA held a symposium and workshop in November 2021 on the topic of wild cats and domestic cats with regard to the spread of the wild cat.
One of the most important findings was that there is still much need for research in the area of interactions between wild and domestic cats. Another important finding was that too little information is available for professionals (e.g. veterinarians, animal carers, rangers, gamekeepers and game wardens) on how to deal with feral cats. With the spread of wildcats, there is a great need for targeted information for these target groups. KORA has continuously informed the broader public about the wildcat and our wildcat project in the form of articles in the media and lectures. In this project, KORA wants to intensify communication with experts and institutions.
STRATEGIC COOPERATION FOR THE CONSERVATION OF THE WILDCAT IN EUROPE
Besides the establishment of its wildcat project in Switzerland, KORA, in cooperation with the IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group, endeavours to improve the conservation of the wildcat internationally. Discussions with colleagues from all over Europe showed a requirement for closer and coordinated cooperation for the conservation of the wildcat. KORA intends to strengthen its international activities even more and is thus also part of the EUROWILDCAT network.
The project is carried out in consultation with the cantonal hunting inspectorates. The project is financed by two private foundations that support nature conservation issues and the Solothurn Lottery Fund.
- FIWI, University of Bern (Dr. Iris Marti and team).
- Department of Clinical Diagnostics and Services, University of Zurich (Prof. Dr. Regina Hofmann and team)
- Senckenberg Research Institute, Department of Conservation Genetics (Dr. Carsten Nowak and team)
- Animal Practice im Moos/Ins (Dr. Anna Geissbühler and team)
Project duration: 2021-2023
Contact KORA: Dr Lea Maronde