Finding pure-bred wildcats is the main challenge, due to interbreeding with domestic cats, but with modern scientific techniques the solutions are easier, and small pieces of skin taken from pure bred wildcats would supply the cells required.
Though the cloning of Dolly the sheep happened 15 years ago, the experiments in this field by the scientist concerned still continue, his latest work a new technique for cloning rare Scottish wildcats, to help further the future of this endangered species
The scientist in question, embryologist Dr Bill Ritchie said that the number of cats thought still to exist in the wild is about 400, and cloning to propagate the species has been earlier mooted by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
The first cloned mammal ever to be created at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh was Dolly the Sheep, and the current research project is being in part funded by the Moredun Research Institute and the Institute for Animal Health, this not being the first wild animal species to be so treated. Finding pure-bred wildcats is the main challenge, due to interbreeding with domestic cats, but with modern scientific techniques the solutions are easier, and small pieces of skin taken from pure bred wildcats would supply the cells required.
Eggs from domestic cats could well be used as starting materials for the cloning process, which would, if employed as before, produce batches of pure-bred kittens, which could gradually be introduced to wild habitats, where it is believed around 150 breeding pairs of wildcats still exist.
Though still in the early stages, this great news offers real hope for the future of this critically endangered species, and will hopefully be the way of the future in allowing humanity to help preserve some species for future generation giving back to nature instead of simply taking away.
Loss of habitat,inter-breeding with domestic animals and disease are among the cause of population decline, the Scottish Wildcat being very similar to a very beefy tabby cat, with dark brown, blacks and grey fur, which appears ruffled due to being of a double thickness as compared to domestic varieties.
Moving around more in the manner of a big cat, with much heavier and wider face and jaw, the real giveaway is the thick, ringed tail, perfectly banded in black and brown with a blunt black tip that is very prominent.
Largest in the wildcat family, males average 13-17lb in weight, females 11-15lb, are about half as big again as the domestic cat., though fossil remains of twice the size have been uncovered. With razor sharp claws, and rotating wrists for gripping and climbing, very powerful thigh muscles and the capability of reaching 30mph in a sprint, this is a truly awesome predator, which we do not wish to see disappearing forever.