Returning the wildcat to Scotland

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Dr Helen Senn

As part of the RSE investigates… conservation series, Dr Helen Senn outlines the steps taken over the last decade to place the wildcat back on a path to recovery and explore why it takes both local knowledge and global scientific expertise to embark on saving a species.

Once widespread, wildcats are now on the brink of extinction in Scotland. A sad history of habitat loss, persecution and, more recently, breeding with domestic cats, has forced the species to a point where its population is no longer viable. The Saving Wildcats partnership project aims to reverse this decline through conservation breeding and the release of wildcats into the Cairngorms National Park, with the first releases being conducted in June 2023.

A man wearing glasses
Dr Helen Senn


Dr Helen Senn

Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Helen is head of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Conservation and Science department where she manages a team of 24 conservationists who work on species recovery projects in Scotland and around the world. She has been based at RZSS since 2011. She holds a doctorate in conservation genetics. She is the lead for the Saving Wildcats partnership project which is conducting the first ever releases of wildcats in Scotland.


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