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WATCH: Born to be wild... new kits arrive at the Highland Wildlife Park

By Gavin Musgrove

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Wildcat kittens which will likely be released into the wild in the Cairngorms in 2024 have been born.

They are the second lot of litters to arrive at the Saving Wildcats conservation breeding for release centre at the Highland Wildlife Park by Kincraig.

The partnership has welcomed 11 kittens in four litters so far with the Saving Wildcats team hopeful for more births in coming weeks.

Four kittens, two males and two females. were born to Fruin and Beanie.

Fian and Rannoch have two kittens, one male and one female. Torr and Embo have one kitten who is female.

Droma and Arran have had four kittens, the sex will be determined when they receive their first health check.

Led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), Saving Wildcats is 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 also taking action to mitigate threats faced in the wild.

Saving Wildcats has undertaken widespread engagement with local communities and drawn on global conservation and scientific expertise to further understanding of wildcat ecology and behaviour.

The first releases of kittens born in 2022 began in June this year.

Can you see us? Some of the new kittens born recently at the Highland Wildlife Park but which will one day prowl the Cairngorms. Picture and video: Saving Wildcats.
Can you see us? Some of the new kittens born recently at the Highland Wildlife Park but which will one day prowl the Cairngorms. Picture and video: Saving Wildcats.

David Barclay, Saving Wildcats conservation manager, 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.

“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.”

Supporters can sponsor some of these cats to help secure a future for Scotland’s wildcats at savingwildcats.org.uk/sponsor.

Some young wildcats already on the prowl in the Cairngorms

Earlier this summer the Saving Wildcats project began releasing wildcats into the Cairngorms Connect landscape of the Cairngorms National Park following several years of intense preparation.

The project has worked closely with gamekeepers and landowners surrounding the release site and has been carrying out a Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return programme since 2022 to mitigate the threat posed to wildcats by interbreeding – also known as hybridisation – with domestic cats.

The project team is tracking these released wildcats via GPS-radio collars and will release further information about their movements once they have collected and analysed sufficient data.

Within the lifespan of the project, it is envisioned that around 20 cats will be released in each of 2024 and 2025 from the conservation breeding for release centre.

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