It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson, in these unusual surroundings. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for ensuring that the debate took place today. It is a pleasure to follow Bob Blackman. I would like to associate myself with his comments regarding our Jewish colleagues, friends, family and communities across the United Kingdom, both for the remaining part of this year and in the future.
I hope to talk about a number of matters, including one which was brought to my attention this morning and which raises great concern. I heard today that the RZSS WildGenes laboratory at Edinburgh Zoo has said that in all probability the Scottish wildcat is now extinct as a gene pool. The gene pool of one of the most endangered wild mammals in the world, which resides in Scotland in very small numbers, is now so affected by the domestic cat that it cannot be identified separately. The only gene pool we have is in approximately 100 Scottish wildcats that are in captivity. With the enormous challenges that face this country and the world, it is interesting to look at one small aspect, in this case an animal that lives in the United Kingdom, was far more widespread in past decades and is now literally extinct in the wild. If the follow-up tests that are currently being done confirm this, it would be truly tragic news.
As we approach Christmas, it is a salutary lesson to think that in the United Kingdom we were asked to take care of a mammalian group and we have managed to do that so badly that it has fallen into extinction. We look at the giant panda, the tiger and the elephant—all of which rightly require care—and yet we may have let one of the most important and unique groups of animals slip into extinction on our own doorstep. I find that very saddening, but I compliment Edinburgh Zoo on the work that it does.