24/05/2018 in Highland Wildlife Park
Three rare Scottish wildcat kittens have recently begun to emerge from their den at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park.
The trio, born in March to mother Ness, may look similar to regular tabby cats but they are important additions to a breeding programme which aims to protect this iconic Scottish species from extinction.
David Barclay, RZSS cat conservation project officer said, “While it is always a joy to see the excitement in the visitor’s faces as they catch a glimpse of the kittens exploring their enclosure, it is an even greater feeling knowing that young wildcats like these could be the saviour of the species in Scotland.
“With little evidence of viable populations in the wild it is clear to see how valuable reintroductions from the captive breeding population could be. These kittens, from a wild born father, possess genes that will allow for new breeding pairs to be established ensuring the population continues to grow.
“The Scottish wildcat is facing the very real threat of extinction due to hybridisation with domestic and feral cats as well as habitat loss and accidental persecution. However, together with our partners in Scottish Wildcat Action, Scotland’s national conservation project for the species, we will continue to deliver conservation efforts for the species and make sure we give them the greatest hope of survival for future generations”
Douglas Richardson, head of living collections at the park said, “RZSS Highland Wildlife Park first bred Scottish wildcats in 1981. Over the years we have provided many of our offspring to other high-standard collections and so from quite early-on we sowed the seeds for what is now the formal conservation breeding programme.
“It is comforting to know that the wildcats within the formal breeding programme will provide the lifeline that the species needs to ride-out the very real threat of extinction in the wild.”
RZSS conservation and breeding programmes are supported by the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.