A SOCIAL enterprise company interested in boosting numbers of wildcats in the West Highlands is looking for the support of local farmers and crofters.

Wildcat Haven has stepped up its campaign to turn land into "safe havens" for Scottish wildcats. Its plans will accelerate their current work in Scotland and develop a 'network' of 15 to 20 wildcat reserves, adding to their two sites on Ardnamurchan and Moidart where they currently work with local communities to provide threat-free land for the animals to live on.

The charity said it will work closely with landowners and the reserves will be reforested and managed to remove invasive plant species, creating a natural ecosystem that wildcats can thrive within, and whilst wildcat prey species and other natives will be encouraged, non-natives such as feral cats will be kept out.

"Partnering with landowners is critical to creating a Haven large enough to home a sustainable population of wildcats," explained chief scientific advisor to the project, Dr Paul O'Donoghue. "But amongst these landscapes we need reserves where the wildcat is the absolute priority; oases acting as strongholds for wildcat populations that can never be developed, deforested or covered in windmills."

Dr O'Donoghue reassured farmers that their land and livestock would not be affected by the reserves: "We are already playing a role on a big sheep farm on Ardnamurchan and we would love the support of farmers on our new sites. Farmers and crofters are key stakeholders in a wildcat haven area, and we see no conflict whatsoever with either groups.

"Our experience on Ardnamurchan and Moidart is that farmers quite like them on the land, we have a lot of crofters who help monitor the wildcats because they know the ground so well."