Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads


#SteveReviews: The Tigers of Scotland

One thing we’re very good at doing in the UK, is focussing on conservation of endangered species in foreign countries, particularly those that we perceive as under threat such as pandas and tigers. We neglect our native species, resulting in declines of once widespread species without anyone noticing. A great example of this is the common toad (Bufo bufo) which has declined by 68% in the UK over the past 30 years (up to 2016). How has such a drastic decline gone unnoticed? There are a number of factors including shifting baseline syndrome and because people simply don’t care. Another species (well technically a subspecies) that has been slipping closer to extinction in the UK, is the Scottish wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris). The 2017 documentary (currently available on Netflix titled the The Tigers Of Scotland helps to provide an insight into this rare species living right on our doorstep.

The film isn’t like most wildlife documentaries I’ve seen recently and the change in format is very refreshing. We go on a quick whistle-stop tour of the cultural achievements of Scotland before putting the natural world and the Scottish wildcat into perspective. They look very similar to our domestic cats (particularly tabby cats) although they are larger and better adapted to the harsh environments of the Highlands. The Tigers of Scotland explore the ongoing conservation of this elusive species, with interviews of people working on the ground to survey for the remaining wildcats in the wild and the importance for allowing them to thrive again, now the correct habitat management is in place.

The Tigers Of Scotland is a relatively short being about an hour in length, which makes it easily watched. The information provided is easily digestible and explained to the level that everyone can understand it. There is also a quick inclusion of the Eurasian lynx and it’s potential reintroduction, a little out of place but needed to put a persecuted predator into perspective. The documentary is very balanced for the most part although there could be more footage of the cat’s themselves but this is understandable given their rare nature. The Tigers Of Scotland is very much focussed on the conservation of this species rather than showing the cat in action. I feel this may be due to the need to educate the general public about this species, as I can imagine if you asked them they wouldn’t know the species existed.

Unfortunately there are between 100 and 400 Scottish wildcats left in the wild and on the verge of extinction. One of the biggest causes of decline is hybridisation with feral cats and then loss of habitat. Feral cats can also spread disease to wildcats and so these are caught, vaccinated and neutered. Removal isn’t always effective no matter how good it sounds, there are just too many cats in the area for culling to work. The Tigers Of Scotland plays an important part in enlightening the viewer on the fragility of this species and what needs to be done to save them from extinction.

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