Eleven endangered Scottish wildcat kittens born at conservation centre

Eleven endangered Scottish wildcat kittens born at conservation centre
A total of 11 wildcats have been born in four litters at a conservation centre in the Scottish Highlands (Saving Wildcats/ Royal Zoological Society of Scotland/PA)

A project working to save the endangered Scottish wildcat species has seen 11 kittens born this year – with hopes more could follow.

It is the second year in a row that baby wildcats have been born at the Saving Wildcats conservation breeding for release centre, which is based at the Highland Wildlife Park outside of Aviemore.

So far 11 kittens have been born in four separate litters, with wildcats Droma and Fruin both giving birth to four, as well as two kittens for wildcat Fian and one for Torr.

While the new kittens are still “vulnerable”, it is hoped they could be released into the wild next year.

And with the species on the “brink of extinction”, David Barclay, conservation manager at the Saving Wildcats team, said they could “play an important role in securing a future for the species”.

The project, which is led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), has brought together national and international experts in a bid to restore Scotland’s critically endangered wildcat population, by breeding the animals and releasing them into part of the Cairngorms National Park.

In addition to this, work is also being done to try to mitigate the threats the animals face in the wild.

The first releases of kittens born in 2022 began in June this year, with hopes that about 20 cats will be released in both 2024 and 2025 from the conservation breeding for release centre.

One of the kittens born at the Saving Wildcats conservation breeding for release centre (Saving Wildcats/Royal Zoological Society of Scotland/PA)

Mr Barclay said: “Wildcats in Scotland are on the brink of extinction and these kittens will play an important role in securing a future for the species.

“We know there are 11 kittens from four litters so far and we hope there will be more born in coming weeks. It is still early days for our new wildcat kittens who are vulnerable in their first weeks and months.

“Over the next year, the wildcats will be prepared for the challenges of life in the wild. Once they are independent and no longer reliant on their mums, they will move into large pre-release enclosures designed to support natural development and reduce exposure to humans and disturbance.”

He added: “Everything we learn from the wildcat releases which have begun this year will help to inform the future releases and ensure they are as successful as possible.”

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