“Running Wild” – the wildcat run, Germany

In September 2006, BUND Deutschland (Friends of the Earth Germany), in cooperation with the Sports Federation of Thuringia, organised a “race for life” for the European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) for the first time. Called “Running Wild”, the event was intended to highlight the fact that the forests in Thuringia, Bavaria and Hesse need to be reconnected so that wildcats have large areas in which to roam. One aim of the “Running Wild” project was to publicise the planned migration corridor for wildcats between Hainich National Park and the Thuringian Forest (Thüringer Wald).

The run was organised by various stakeholders in the region, including sportspersons, conservation and environmental organisations, public authorities and members of the business community. A well-known female sports personality from the region agreed to be the project’s patron.

© rheinerftkreis / flickr.com
© rheinerftkreis / flickr.com

The wildcat run is part of the “Wildcat Rescue Network” project organised by Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), which aims to develop a network comprising some 20,000 kilometres of migration corridor for endangered forest species, including the wildcat but also the badger and European Pine Marten (Martes martes). Nature conservation organisations and volunteers have drawn up a plan for a network of wildcat migration corridors, which is intended, in future, to support environmentally compatible planning of transport routes, housing and industrial sites.

Within the project framework, studies found that some small wildcat populations are living in geographically separate areas. A comprehensive analysis of the impediments to their dispersion was also undertaken. The aim is to reconnect these very isolated populations once again and thus help to safeguard the wildcat’s long-term future. To this end, corridors – around 50 m wide and 20 km in length – consisting of vegetation and trees will be created to facilitate the wildcat’s dispersion from Hainich National Park to the Thuringian Forest. In the long term, other corridors will also be created in order to connect forested areas in Thuringia, Bavaria, Hesse, Lower Saxony and Baden-Württemberg.

The wildcat run is an important aspect of the project. It supported the publicity work and was used as an instrument to present the planned corridor and inform the general public about the wildcat, its significance and needs. Besides the main runs over various distances, an extensive framework programme was also organised in order raise awareness of biological diversity and the importance of ecological connectivity in the landscape.

Balance

The first “Running Wild” race in Thuringia in September 2006 involved some 250 runners and was attended by around 2000 visitors. The event was a major success, and as a result, two further wildcat runs took place in 2008, one in Thuringia and the other in Hesse.

The run which took place in June 2008 was organised by BUND Waldeck Frankenberg and covered a route from Rothaargebirge towards Burgwald-Kellerwald. It was intended to publicise the planned wildcat corridor between these two areas. The event was awarded the MUNA Environmental Prize by the German Wildlife Foundation (DBU) in the “environmental communication” class. This biotope networking project makes a valuable contribution to species and nature conservation, and the wildcat run is an outstanding communication tool to raise awareness of the problem of landscape fragmentation. The organisation of wildcat runs at local level sensitises the public to the issue, and offers an opportunity to provide comprehensive information and generate additional funds for wildcat conservation. BUND Thüringen (Friends of the Earth Thuringia) also offers wildcat sponsorships as a way of encouraging interest in the Wildcat Rescue Network in Thuringia.

Further information

“Running Wild” – the wildcat race for life
http://wildkatzet3.bund.net/index.php?id=79 (de)

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