Scottish Wildcat Habitat Destruction, Clashindarroch Forest

Stephen Wiggins Article, Fund Raising 2 Comments

Banner image courtesy of Wildcat Haven

In the past weeks, Scotland has been hosting the CoP26 UN Climate Change Conference, with pledges ‘to protect biodiversity and the planet.’

However, it has emerged today that the Scottish government and Swedish government owned energy company, Vattenfall are seemingly hell bent (in the name of logging and industrial windfarm revenues) on destroying one of the few remaining bastions of the the Scottish Wildcat, a rare and endangered species.

The Scottish government own the Clashindarroch forest and you would of course expect them to protect this precious forest and its iconic wildcats. However, the reality is that they are actually collaborating with Vattenfall ( a company owned by the Swedish Government) to develop windfarms on the site. Such development requires large scale forest clearance, the construction of roads, the laying of miles of cabling etc. In short it leads to extensive disturbance. Wildcats are incredibly vulnerable to disturbance so this would be disastrous and could lead to their extinction at this site and ultimately towards their complete extinction in the wild” – Wildcat Haven, Crowd Justice, 27 October 2021 case update

As well as the windfarm development we have also collected evidence that the Scottish government are actively logging the site for timber and we have caught them logging during the breeding season, which can lead to female wildcats abandoning their young” (Wildcat Haven, Crowd Justice, 27 October 2021 case update). The Forestry and Land Scotland’s outdated claim is that “We adjust work plans at Clashindarroch if there is a risk of impacting the wildcats” (“Wildcats at Clashindarroch,” 16 May 2018), which seems to lack credibility based upon Wildcat Haven’s “collected evidence.”

No one can forward a credible denial of the need for more renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines, but proposing to destroy vital forest habitat to build a wind farm (there must be other sites surely?) in the Clashindarroch Forest, Aberdeenshire is seemingly short-sighted environmental vandalism. The Confidential Annexes of the Environmental Impact Assessment carried out by Vattenfall have been obtained (after much legal wrangling and withholding by Vattenfall’s legal team) by Wild Haven, a community interest company fighting to protect the Scottish Wildcat.

The Environmental Impact Assessment is damning of the proposed development’s biodiversity protection credentials and the inevitable negative impact upon known Scottish Wildcat habitat:

The survey data we have received confirms exactly what we had known all along (and what our own data shows), that there is a significant population of Scottish wildcats in the Clashindarroch and that their presence is found throughout the whole forest. They have confirmed what we have been saying, that this truly is a ‘Wildcat Wonderland’. Going further and even more damning, is the fact that they have even found wildcats on the exact site for the proposed new windfarm development. There can be no doubt now that this industrial development will severely and negatively impact this wildcat population and their habitat” – Wildcat Haven, Crowd Justice, 15 November 2021 case update

A huge threat facing wildcats is habitat loss, and nowhere is this clearer than Clashindarroch Forest in Aberdeenshire. At least 13 wildcats live in this forest; that’s the largest single population known to exist and could represent as much as a third of the surviving population” – Wildcat Haven, Crowd Justice

To be clear, without species protection (let alone pre-meditated habitat destruction) and securing Scottish Wildcat habitat, the species is heading for extinction in the wild:

The current [Scottish Wildcat] population estimation ranges from 30 to 430 individuals, with a further decreasing trend….All the robust information available indicates that the wildcat in Scotland is at the verge of extinction. Based on the available information, we consider the wildcat population in Scotland to be no longer viable. The number of wildcats is too small, the hybridisation too far advanced and the population too fragmented. We therefore conclude that it is too late to conserve the wildcat in Scotland as a stand-alone population” – Wildcat in Scotland – Review of Conservation Status and Activities,” Urs Breitenmoser, Tabea Lanz and Christine Breitenmoser-Würsten, IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Cat Specialist Group, February 2019

The Scottish government appear to be content to be complicit in the pre-meditated destruction of known Scottish Wildcat habitat:

The Scottish government is fully aware of this data [the negative impact on Scottish Wildcat habitat exposed within the Confidential Annexes of the Environmental Impact Assessment carried out by Vattenfall] and yet their [Scottish government’s] statutory agency, Nature Scot, publicly stated that they did not object to this windfarm development” – Wildcat Haven, Crowd Justice, 15 November 2021 case update

There is a Public Inquiry of the proposed Clashindarroch Forest windfarm development due at the end of February 2022, Wildcat Haven pledging to “take this all the way to Judicial Review” if required – if you care and can offer help to support the legal challenge, I suggest you “Join the legal fight to protect the Scottish Wildcat” – Wildcat Haven

 

Update [22 November 2021] on Join the legal fight to protect the Scottish Wildcat

Hi All

Last week was extremely important for us.. Members of our team have been in Sweden to start laying the foundations for an extensive awareness raising campaign over there. The reason for this is simple. Vattenfall is a company owned entirely by the Swedish government and their headquarters are in Stockholm. As we all know, the Swedish people are well known for their awareness of environmental issues and being proactive in attempting to live in a sustainable way. I wonder how many of them know that their own government is trying to push through a development that could lead to the extinction of the wildcat. Would Vattenfall try and push through a development in Sweden, if it could lead to the extinction of one of their own iconic species? We all know the answers to that question is NO.

Therefore we have been in touch with and met with a range of environmental groups in Sweden to put in the place the foundations for a media campaign and a series of events in Stockholm. We are hugely encouraged by the response so far and our plans have been met with great enthusiasm.

Let us be clear, at every point we have given Vattenfall the opportunity to do the right thing and move this development to a more appropriate site. We have personally met they Senior project team at their Edinburgh offices. All we got was fake smiles and false promises. All the while they knew that the data held in their possession confirmed that there is an extensive population of wildcats on their proposed development site. Before we came to Sweden we contacted senior people in the Stockholm office including their Vice President of the Environment. You would of course expect someone in such a role to be open to discussion. But no, they have refused to meet, refused to facilitate a meeting with Anna Borg (the CEO of Vattenfall) and worst of all, suggested we contact the Scottish project team, the very same people who have tried to smother the wildcat data.

From our experience, Vattenfall is behaving like any large, multi national Corporation, whose employees hide behind management structures and shift the responsibility. This is just not acceptable, particularly when the fate of the rarest cat in the world is at stake.

We have been extremely reasonable, but now it is time to bring the fight to Vattenfall’s back yard. We are very confident that the people of Sweden will get behind us and that Vattenfall, will face up to this issue and do the right thing. We have politely asked them, but now we must make them.

It is vital that we build as much capacity as possible in Sweden, so if there are any Swedes who are interesting in helping us with this campaign, then please do email us at:

[email protected]

Hopefully you can all see that we are doing everything humanly possible to save the Clashindarroch wildcats. We are fighting on every front. We are working flat out and are more motivated than ever in our mission.

If you want to help us further then please visit:

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/wildcats/

As always we will keep you fully updated on developments Interesting times.

All the best

The Wildcat Haven Team

 

Further Reading

Saving the ‘Highland Tiger’,” IWB, 21 January 2021

Wildcat activists call for forest to receive official protection,” Forestry Journal, 29 August 2020

“The Clashindarroch is the best site in Scotland for the wildcat and the population we have found there is utterly priceless and offers great hope for the future of the species.

“The support for our plans to get SSSI [Site of Special Scientific Interest] status for the Clashindarroch is simply unprecedented and cannot be ignored by the government” – Dr O’Donoghue (Director, Wildcat Haven)

Could tree felling wipe out the last stronghold of the Scottish Wildcat?” The Telegraph (paywall), 13 May 2018

Comments 2

  1. Tammy hynes

    Heartbreaking, what is wrong with people? Even people who don’t do anything to harm animals, they are still in part responsible because they don’t do anything to stop the people who so harm our animals and environment

    1. Post
      Author
      Stephen Wiggins

      Tammy, I have just added an update at the foot of the article from Wildcat Haven – taking the fight to Vattenfall’s front door in Sweden….Steve

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