THE WHITCHURCH-based founder of a ‘bio-banking’ charity is celebrating recording its 200th animal – the Scottish wildcat.

Tullis Matson, who owns Stallion AI, a world-leading expert in equine artificial insemination, is founder and chairman of Nature’s SAFE (Save Animals from Extinction) and his group has stored cell tissues of the critically endangered Scottish Wildcat.

This brings their total number of living animal species samples banked to 200, and marks the important expansion of the charity’s work into preserving the UK’s vulnerable native species for the first time.


Mr Matson, who is a trailblazer for his work with horses, said that he is delighted with the charity’s first foray into UK animal preservation.

He said: “To have cryopreserved our 200th species is a significant milestone in the Nature’s SAFE journey.

“But for the 200th species to be the wildcat of Scotland, one of the UK’s rarest and most endangered species, makes it an even more momentous occasion.

“As far as we are aware it is the first time live cells from the wildcat have been frozen and stored.

“We are immensely proud, not only of our international work but also of the fact that we are now blazing a trail for the preservation of our own precious native species here in the UK.”

He added that scientists have identified 1.7 million species around the globe, with the United Nations estimating that one million of these are at risk of extinction – one species could be going extinct at least every hour.

It is thought that between five to 20 million more species are yet to be discovered.

Nature’s SAFE is working in a race against time to bank living samples from as many endangered species as possible, including up to 50 genetic variations within each species, as an insurance policy to save each entire species and to secure the continuation of biodiversity on the planet.

To date the charity’s focus has been on critically endangered species abroad but now British wildlife are on the agenda too, thanks to an award of £16,000 from The Postcode Local Trust, a grant-giving charity enabled by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Tullis added: “The wildcat of Scotland is the only native member of the cat family still found in the wild in Britain.

“But historical population decline because of habitat loss, persecution and more recently, an increase in genetic hybridisation from breeding with domestic cats, has left this unique species on the edge of extinction.

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“Scotland’s wildcat population is now considered ‘nonviable’ following an independent review by the IUCN Cat Specialist Group.

“The IUCN report concluded wildcat releases, at suitably prepared sites, are now essential for the recovery of the species.”

The Saving Wildcats partnership project led by The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) aims to ensure the survival of the species through a captive breeding and release programme alongside threat mitigation and research.