Scottish Wildcat Habitat Destruction, Clashindarroch Forest

Stephen Wiggins Article, Fund Raising 3 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 The Forestry and Land Scotland’s outdated claim is that “We adjust work plans at Clashindarroch if there is a risk of impacting the wildcats” (“Wildcats at Clashindarroch,” 16 May 2018), which seems to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. {Updated} The unredacted Confidential Annexes [Redacted Version] of the Environmental Impact Assessment carried out by Vattenfall were due to be obtained (after much legal wrangling and withholding by Vattenfall’s legal team [(ref para 3)]) 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

Save the Scottish wildcat by protecting Clashindarroch Forest!” Change.org Petition, Scottish Wildcat Haven

 

 

Public Inquiry (28 February 2022)

Public Inquiry – Ref. WIN-110-2 (Section 36 Wind Farm) due to commence 28 February 2022 (virtual meeting – view via www.dpea.public-i.tv)

Addendum to Draft Inquiry Statement of 17 December 2021,” Living Law (on behalf of Wildcat Haven CIC), 17 January 2022

Statement on Scope of Technical Matters – On behalf of Wildcat Haven,” Living Law (on behalf of Wildcat Haven CIC), 17 December 2021 – “In short, the Applicant has failed to follow its own EIA methodology and a massively suppressed impact prediction for wildcat is the result” – Annex 5, ES Ref Table 9-6

Ecology & Biodiversity – Chapter 9, Environmental Impact Assessment Report,” SLR Global Environmental Solutions, November 2019 – Note: para 9.42 “Any sensitive data (e.g. badger sett locations, wildcat related data) from the desk study or field surveys are included in a Confidential Annex to this Chapter which will be issued to SNH and the planning authority only and will not be made publicly available“- “Clashindarroch Wind Farm, Aberdeenshire Vattenfall UK – Pre-Construction Ecology Report: Planning Condition 55 (Confidential – Redacted Version),” Natural Power, 17 December 2012 – Made public, 21 January 2022

Clashindarroch II Wind Farm – Environmental Impact Assessment – Scoping Report,” SLR Global Environmental Solutions, April 2017

 

 

The Wildcat Haven Team and Finlay

Update, 4 July 2022, North Wales Police, “Scottish Wildcat Investigation Update

Update 1 July 2022, Wildcat Haven, “FINLAY UPDATE- PHYSICAL AND MENTAL TRAUMA CONFIRMED BY VET CHECK

Update 29 June 2022, Wildcat Haven, “FINLAY IS BACK BUT HE HAS BEEN DAMAGED

On the 14th February 2022, Finlay was seized by the police without warning and we believe without justification. Yesterday at around 4:30pm he was returned to us by the police after a 3 to 4 hour car journey. We received him in a pet carrier. He was detained for four and half months and we, along with our legal team have been fighting as hard as possible for his return.

We are exhausted, emotionally traumatised and deeply upset by the conduct of the police, however it is now clear that Finlay too has suffered both physical and psychological damage at their hands. When he left he was in prime condition, his coat was perfect and so was his body condition. He has never had any illness of any kind throughout the entire period of our care and was a confident, relaxed animal. 

However, yesterday we were handed a document by PC Richard Smith, the Officer in Charge from North Wales Police. The notes are extremely disturbing. They show Finlay has developed gastrointestinal issues and has had to have medication. It transpires that he was also shedding a lot which is a common response to extreme stress in animals. The notes also suggest that he has been over grooming and as a result the report states,’ His faecals became small, dark and very dry and when broken open were solid with hair’. The report goes on to say he was seen straining. It seems very clear that the extreme stress and boredom has resulted in overgrooming and a dangerously high ingestion of his own fur. Over grooming sadly occurs in so many zoo animals and is a coping mechanism to deal with the extreme captivity they feel.  He never did this in our care. The notes we have, are very sadly evidence of psychological and physiological damage as a result of what has happened to him in his 4 and half month incarceration.

As you have all seen, we housed Finlay in a huge and naturalistic enclosure where he thrived under our care. He had that air of superiority that all happy, healthy cats have. Indeed some of you called him ‘King Finlay’. He was relaxed and at peace and living a stimulating life. The animal we got back yesterday is very different. Gone is the swagger, the confidence, the air of superiority. Instead he is nervous and anxious. We have never heard Finlay yowl before, but yesterday he yowled for hours and nothing we could do would stop him. He was inconsolable. It has had us in tears, it is heart breaking and the thought of what he has endured is almost too much to consider.

However as you all know Finlay is a fighter and we will do all we can to rebuild and fix him so he can be hopefully be happy again.

Throughout this tortuous 4 and half months, in our opinion the police have inflicted unnecessary suffering and cruelty on both Finlay and the people in our team who were looking after him. They have acted recklessly and without due care. The sheer incompetence and lack of compassion they have displayed is astonishing. It is also likely that tens of thousands of pounds of tax payers money have been wasted by the police and the result of all that is a damaged cat that simply did not deserve this.

This cannot happen again to any animal (or the people caring for them) and everybody who has had a hand in causing this suffering needs to be held to account. As you all know, we are not afraid of giving a voice to the voiceless and we are more determined than ever to save the Scottish wildcat and also to get Finlay the Justice he deserves.

We are deeply upset, but extremely focussed, so more updates will follow very shortly. In the meantime, Finlay’s welfare is our absolute priority.

And just to clear up some of the misinformation that is floating about. Finlay has not been DNA tested, but more on that later. Beware the trolls, they will be out in force, but is a very sick minded individual indeed, who gloats over an animal’s suffering. Sadly such vile people exist.

Thanks as always.

The Wildcat Haven team and Finlay.”

Police seize Scottish wildcat kitten from group that says it is rehabilitating the animal after finding it injured in the Highlands,” Daily Mail, 16 February 2022

Police seize Scottish wildcat from controversial charity,” The Times, 16 February 2022

Finlay Has Been Taken,” Wildcat Haven, 15 February 2022

 

Further Reading

Wildcats could be released in England for first time in hundreds of years,” The Guardian, 25 November 2022

WINDFARM INQUIRY UPDATE – Vattenfall Reach New Depths and Withhold Crucial Report ,” Wildcat Haven, 16 March 2022

It is an exceptionally busy time and we are still in the midst of the Public Inquiry process where we are putting forward our case to stop Vattenfall, ( a company owned entirely by the Swedish Government) from developing a second windfarm in the Clashindarroch Forest. This site is home to most important population of Scottish wildcats in existence. Such development and disturbance could lead to the extinction of this population which would be catastrophic for the Scottish wildcat.

We had the actual hearing on the 2nd march and we are now in the process of writing our closing submissions. You can watch the hearing on this link. I will warn you though that it is very clunky and there are technical issues with this link. Strangely, the other non wildcat sessions all seem to work fine. Perhaps just another coincidence hey. Here it is. We give our evidence in the afternoon session 3 to 4 hours in. 

https://dpea.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/649473

Vattenfall have employed a QC called Marcus Trinick and they put forward their Ecological consultant, Mr Paul Bradshaw from a company called MBEC, as a witness. In his witness statement, Mr Bradshaw has admitted that there are wildcats in the Clashindarroch and that the site is of National significance. However, when giving evidence there was a clear attempt to backpedal from this position and claim that they are just hybrids. Trinick and Bradshaw then seemed to take a position that the Scottish wildcat doesn’t actually even exist and that they are not a separate and unique sub species or evolutionary significant unit, worthy of conservation. Perhaps they forgot that the Scottish wildcat has been separated from mainland European wildcats for around 10,000 years.

It gets worse, Mr Bradshaw in his witness statement relied on a  German study that looked at the impact of windfarms on wildcats. He used a statement from the study to suggest that the operational phase of windfarms causes no significant displacement. However, he omitted to comment on the preceding paragraphs which state the following,  ‘the construction phase presents potential hazards that can lead to the killing of kittens in particular, or to the displacement of wildcats’. Mr Bradshaw attempted to convince the Inquiry that windfarms are not harmful wildcats when they operate, but didn’t say that’s because all the wildcats and their kittens have already been killed and displaced during the building phase. It is blatant cherry picking and a total misrepresentation of the facts. Remember that the Ecological consultant is supposed to be independent of Vattenfall and work objectively.

So we had an attempt to dismiss the importance of the Clashindarroch wildcats, followed by a convenient omission that windfarm construction  kills wildcat kittens and displaces adults.

However, they stooped to even lower levels than this. We have previously told you that a whistle-blower had come forward who claimed that the presence of wildcats on the site was kept secret from the relevant agencies. Well just prior to the Inquiry a report was leaked to us. It is from 2013 and is a report produced by the Ecological Clerk of works. This report was paid for by Vattenfall and has their name on the front of it. The report makes clear reference to the existence of possible wildcats on the site. This is of course hugely significant evidence. Such a report should have been provided to the Inquiry by Vattenfall but it wasn’t. At the start of the hearing on the link above, you will see that our lawyer raises this issue and attempts to get the report included as evidence. You will notice the vehement objection by Vattenfall’s QC to prevent this, denying the existence/validity of this document. Well yesterday the document was formally accepted as evidence by the inquiry. The whistle blower was right. Vattenfall have withheld documents from public scrutiny and have consistently betrayed the existence of Scottish wildcats in the Clashindarroch. It is shameless and it is blatant and beyond doubt. Such suppression of crucial information that can impact their development applications, appears to be a clear attempt at Corporate Fraud by Vattenfall. Big money is at stake here. The documents can be seen on our news page at:

https://www.wildcathaven.com/news

So we fight on, uncovering evidence that was never meant to see the light of day, giving a voice to the otherwise voiceless wildcats.  We won’t give up and with your support, we can save these priceless wildcats. We are in for a long haul so if you want to support our work, then you can do so at:

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

Many thanks as always.

 

Wildcat Haven Update, 22 November 2021

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

 

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

Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman wins defamation case,” BBC News, 11 March 2020 – Lord Clark noted “Wildcat Haven was “engaged in a genuine scheme aimed at the conservation of wildcats, run by well-intentioned and enthusiastic individuals“” – “Andy Wightman” blog page – Ref: “Highland Titles Day,” 24 February 2016,  “Wildcat Haven, Bumblebee Haven or Tax haven?” 29 September 2015 – However, none of this detracts from Wildcat Haven seeking to protect key Scottish Wildcat habitat at Clashindarroch forest, employing legal counsel to raise credible objections as a third-party objector.

 

Comments 3

  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

  2. Pingback: 2021 Review – International Wildlife Bond

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