Five critically endangered Scottish wildcat kittens have been born at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s (RZSS) Highland Wildlife Park.
Keepers at the wildlife conservation charity say they are doing well and will receive their first health checks in the coming weeks where expert vets will be able to 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.”
RZSS leads partnership project Saving Wildcats, working with national and international experts to restore Scotland’s critically endangered wildcat population by breeding and releasing them into the Cairngorms Connect area of the Cairngorms National Park, while mitigating the threats they may face.
Wildcats born at the charity’s off-show conservation breeding for release centre based at Highland Wildlife Park in 2022 are due to be released later this year.
The kittens, which are on show to the public at Wildcat Wood, 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.
“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”
Visitors can spot Talla and her five kittens exploring Highland Wildlife Park’s on-show enclosures in Wildcat Wood.