Conservation of European wildcat

Conservation of European wildcat

Project Animal(s) : European wildcat (Felis silvestris)
Project Category : Mammals
Project Region : Across the World, Asia, Europe
Project Type : Conservation
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Project is timebound? : No

The wildcat is included in CITES Appendix II and the European wildcat listed in the EU Habitats and Species Directive Annex IV and the Bern Convention Appendix II. It is fully protected over most of its range under national legislation. Hunting is prohibited in Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Moldavia, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and Ukraine and regulated in Azerbaijan, Romania and Slovakia. It has no legal protection outside reserve areas in Bulgaria, Georgia and Romania. No information is available for Albania, Croatia and Slovenia.

The inclusion of the European wildcat into the Bern Convention and the European Habitat Directives helped the species to recover in some parts of Europe after having been highly reduced in many areas and even extirpated in others. The European wildcat re-colonized many countries between 1930 and 1940.

The most urgent conservation need is to identify genetically pure wildcats and to prohibit hybridisation. However, this task is difficult as wildcats cannot be distinguished easily from domestic cats or hybrids. Further research on hybridisation levels may warrant a reassessment of the wildcat as a threatened species due to population declines of genetically pure wildcats. In Europe, progress has been made towards defining the felid “units of conservation”, combining studies of morphology and genetics to clarify the relationship between wildcats and domestic cats. Established morphological criteria and genetic markers should help to more easily distinguish hybrids from pure wildcats.

It is also important to agree on a clear taxonomy of the wildcat: current legislation to protect the wildcat can be only effective if the wildcat is seen as a separate species from the domestic cat. There is still a lack of information regarding the current status of the European wildcat and its population trends in many parts of its distribution range.

Project Agency : Cat Specialist Group

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