Presence of Wild Cat in Thayatal confirmed in 2008

Josef Plank, member of the provincial government, welcomes contribution to conservation of biodiversity (Hardegg, January 2009)

European Wild Cat

A year ago, it was THE sensation, now it is confirmed: in 2008 too, the presence of two wild cats could be detected in the National Park Thayatal. For Josef Plank, responsible official for nature protection at the government of Lower Austria, an expected success: „The presence of the wild cat is a commitment for the province of Lower Austria to take all the necessary measures to support the protection of this rare animal.“

Already in autumn 2007, the first detection had caused a stir in specialised circles. Now the smallest national park in Austria could confirm the sensational news: „The detection of the presence of the wild cat in the Thayatal was no coincidence, on the contrary the latest DNA analysis confirmed that the wild cat was a permanent resident of the Thayatal and even hibernated here“, says National Park Director Robert Brunner and WCPA Member about the current findings.

For Josef Plank, it is clear that it represents a commitment not only for the National Park but also for the province of Lower Austria to support all measures aiming at protecting the population of this animal so rare in Austria. „I instructed the nature protection department of the province to collect wild cat classifications and observations and to coordinate any measures in close consultation with the National Park administration“, announced Plank, who was not surprised by the findings, „since the National Park Thayatal had commited itself to this issue with great dedication and expertise.“

As it is not easy to differentiate the wild cat from a common house cat, identification through visual observation is very difficult. In the National Park Thayatal the survey is carried out with lure sticks. These are wooden sticks treated with valerian on which the animals leave their hairs when sniffing and rubbing against them. The hair samples are then analysed genetically at the research institute Senckenberg. Twice in 2008 the wild cat could be clearly identified. To this, National Park biologist Christian Übl comments: „The findings highlight the key role played by the National Park Thayatal, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2009, as habitat for the wild cat. The survey will be extended to the NP Podyí in the Czech Republic next year, and in 2010 a joint Life project has been planned with German partners.“

Director Brunner considers research on the wild cat in his National Park as an important contribution from Austria to the EU-wide initiative Countdown 2010 – Save Biodivesity and will endeavour to develop appropriate protection measures as soon as possible.

The global population of the Wildcat (Felis silvestris) is listed as Least Concern on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, the European Wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris), a subspecies of Wildcat, has suffered severe declines across its range since the 1700s. It was considered regionally extinct in Austria in 2005, but since then the population in neighbouring Italy has spread northwards into the country.

For questions, please contact:

Nationalpark Thayatal 2082 Hardegg

Tel. +43/(0)2949/7005; (english)

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