A SANCTUARY for wildcats will be built on a remote island off the west coast of Scotland to safeguard the future of one of the world's most endangered species.

Only 35 Scottish wildcats are thought to survive in the wild and experts fear that mass cross-breeding with feral domestic cats means extinction of the species is imminent unless swift action is taken.

A new breeding centre for wildcats will be created on Carna by the Aspinall Foundation, while separate work on the mainland will see thousands of feral cats being trapped and neutered, allowing the pure wildcats bred at the island sanctuary to be released into the wild.

Damian Aspinall, who runs the Foundation, said: "We just don't believe wildcats have the luxury of that time before they become extinct. Our initiative means that litters of pure wildcats will be born safely and will be ready for when the government's action plan receives funding."

Dr Paul O'Donoghue, who holds the only trapping license for wildcats and is working closely with The Aspinall Foundation, said: "The west coast holds the only short-term chance for a realistic conservation effort.

"The geography means that wildcat havens can be set up where the species can be protected from hybridisation."