Report from Reuel Chisholm
THE Scottish Big Cat Trust has been awarded charitable status, enabling it
to continue its work studying naturalised non-native cats in Scotland.
The trust, formerly Scottish Big Cats/Scottish Big Cat Society‚ which is
at the forefront of research into non-native cats, provides public access to a
database of over 1,200 sightings, several in Moray, as well as further
information on the cats that are living freely in the Scottish countryside.
Mr Reuel Chisholm, press officer, said: ‚"This is the first time that a UK
organisation focused on free-living exotic cats has been recognised as a charity."
Scientific officer Dr John Murray added: ‚"The recognition of the trust as a charity will ensure we can continue our work researching the cats that are free-living in Scotland and in turn educating the public regarding what species are present.
While SBCT in no way whatsoever advocates the illegal release of these animals into the wild, we also have no wish to capture or eradicate them. Our aims are to study, learn and educate."
He added that the SBCT appreciated that in certain circumstances the authorities may have to take appropriate action with regard to public safety.
Secretary Mr George Markie said that in recent years there had been a growing public acceptance that these cats really did exist. "Farmers, gamekeepers and others that live and work in the countryside and who are familiar with local wildlife are reporting them," he added. "The main difficulty in obtaining evidence is that we are dealing with shy and elusive animals which want to avoid contact with humans.‚"
The trust has a team of highly respected researchers who can provide comment and advice for publications and organisations wishing to produce accurate material relating to Scottish cats. In addition, they have a close working relationship with other groups committed to the scientific study of exotic cats in the UK, and research links with a variety of specialists in cat behaviour throughout the world.
Dr Christina Anne Smith, publications officer, said: "The official Government stance is that these animals do not exist, but far from being a conspiracy or cover up, as some believe, the Government's attitude is quite understandable. To officially admit that the animals exist would be to open the door to demands that these ‚"dangerous alien species‚" be immediately eradicated.
"Before the Government can be convinced, the attitude of the general public must change. One of the most important missions of the trust will be education, and especially children, concerning these animals."
The trust, in collaboration with academic experts in the UK and the USA, is using state-of-the-art molecular biology techniques to collect and analyse cat DNA in order to confirm the species which are present, and where possible their geographic origin and whether any hybridisation has occurred. Information about the trust is available on their webpage http://www.bigcats.org/abc/why/faq.html or contact Mr Chisholm at The Scottish Big Cat Trust, Lynebreck Croft, Grantown-on-Spey PH26 3NN; tel 01479 870086; e-mail Reuelchisholm@aol.com
The Northern Scot, 4 th September 2003
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