Edinburgh Zoo: Critically endangered Scottish wildcat kittens born at Highland Wildlife Park
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New images have been released of endangered Scottish wildcat kittens born at Edinburgh Zoo’s sister wildlife park.
Mum Talla and dad Blair welcomed the five bundles of fluff on April 2 at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s (RZSS) Highland Wildlife Park. Keepers say the kittens are doing well and will receive their first health checks in the coming weeks, where vets will determine their sex.
Keith Gilchrist, animal collection manager at Highland Wildlife Park, said: “We are thrilled to welcome five Scottish wildcat kittens born to mum Talla and dad Blair on 2 April 2023. This is Talla’s first litter, and she is taking to motherhood brilliantly and being very attentive. The kittens are doing extremely well and are getting more confident every day. It has been fantastic to see them growing curious about their surroundings and start exploring their home in Wildcat Wood with Talla by their side.
“Wildcats are Scotland's most iconic animal but sadly also one of our most endangered. This incredible species in on the brink of extinction due to historic habitat loss and hunting. More recently they have become increasingly threatened by interbreeding with domestic cats.”
The kittens are managed as part of the UK breeding programme held by RZSS and could eventually play an important role in the recovery efforts in Scotland. Keith said: “It’s an incredibly exciting time for wildcats in Scotland and we are delighted the kittens will help engage visitors with this iconic species and inspire more people to protect, value and love nature”
It comes as part of RZSS’ project Saving Wildcats, working with experts from around the world to restore Scotland’s critically endangered wildcat population by breeding and releasing them into the Cairngorms Connect area of the Cairngorms National Park. Wildcats born at the charity’s conservation area at the Highland Wildlife Park in 2022 are due to be released later this year. Visitors can spot Talla and her five kittens exploring Highland Wildlife Park’s on-show enclosures in Wildcat Wood.
Said to be rarer than tigers in the wild, Scottish wildcats arrived in these isles after the last Iron Age, 9,000 years ago. The species began to rapidly decline in Victorian times due to predator control and change of land use.