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Saving wild cats in the heart of Wilberforce

Oct 22, 2023

Nestled in the heart of the Hawkesbury, a remarkable conservation effort is taking place. The Wild Cat Conservation Centre is a haven where passion and commitment meet to protect some of the world’s most intriguing small wild cat species. We recently spoke with founder and impassioned conservationist Ben Britton to understand his vision and the extraordinary work happening right here in Wilberforce. 

Britton’s background is rooted in diverse experiences within various zoos and wildlife parks. Yet, he felt the need for an alternative approach, one that would not only be different but, more importantly, more effective in managing wild cats in captivity. He spotted an opportunity to reimagine how we care for wild cats in captivity, or as he puts it, “a better way.” 

The hallmark of the Wild Cat Conservation Centre is its exclusive focus on smaller, often overlooked wild cat species. Ben observed a glaring gap in the conservation landscape, one where traditional zoos concentrated primarily on more commercially appealing animals. “Most people are familiar with the big cats, but some of the most endangered wild cats are the smaller ones.” And thus, the journey of the centre began eight years ago, with a dedicated mission to be their voice and their saviour.

Two Cheeta cubs at their mother born at the conservation centre last year.

The Wild Cat Conservation Centre is home to five distinct wild cat species: cheetahs, servals, caracals, fishing cats, and clouded leopards. Among its remarkable achievements is the establishment of the only breeding program for cheetahs in Sydney. This milestone, which was achieved last year with the birth of two cheetah cubs, the first to ever be born in Sydney, not only demonstrates their dedication but expertise in small cat conservation. 

“We move the cats around a lot here. We’ve got the largest cheetah savanna in Australia. I guess the most important thing is to try and give the cats the opportunity to be as closely aligned to their natural state as possible, provide them true agency and choice over their days,” Britton said.

Britton believed there was a better way to raise wild cats in captivity.

The centre’s impact also extends far beyond the borders of Australia. Britton, has worked in Southern Africa for many years and sits on a number of international zoological committees which are a key in overseeing insurance populations of wild cats. These initiatives are designed to ensure the preservation of wild cat genetics, a crucial aspect of their long-term survival. By maintaining genetic diversity, they are strengthening the prospects of wild cat populations not just locally but on a global scale. “We have these cats which are acting as insurance populations for their wild cousins,” he insists, highlighting the urgency of safeguarding these species for generations to come.

The Wild Cat Conservation Centre employs a holistic approach. While disease remains a considerable risk to wild cat populations, the primary threat is still habitat destruction and human-wildlife conflict. The centre’s initiatives encompass three fundamental areas: education, research, and breeding programs. Through education, visitors learn about the critical work being done and the monumental challenges facing wild cats. Research efforts focus on expanding our understanding of these species, while breeding programs are dedicated to preserving essential genetic diversity. Their ultimate objective is to reintroduce wild cats into their natural habitats, where they belong.

Finn the Fishing cat

Visiting the Wild Cat Conservation Centre offers an unforgettable experience. The facility provides fully guided tours although direct interactions with the cats are not allowed. The objective is to provide an authentic glimpse into their world, gaining insights into the species and the centre’s conservation efforts. 

Early in the morning, visitors have the opportunity to observe the cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal reaching speeds of up to 80 km/h on the Savannah. It’s a chance to witness these majestic creatures in action like few people ever do.

The Wild Cat Conservation Centre relies on tours, sponsors, and supporters to continue its vital work. As a non-profit organisation, every visit and donation contributes to the preservation of small wild cat species and the global effort to protect these remarkable creatures. 

For more information visit

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