Highland Wildlife Park’s newborn Scottish wildcats kittens could play a key role in the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan.
THEY may only be small bundles of fur now, but the two Scottish wildcats born at the Highland Wildlife Park, Scotland, look set to have a big future.
Both female, the kittens have been named Ness and Einich and have just started exploring outside their mother’s den.
In park tradition, the pair have been named after lochs and were born late in the season to experienced mum Betidh after she was introduced to Hamish, the park’s resident mature male wildcat.
Nicknamed the Highland Tiger, Scottish wildcats are a native icon under threat; Ness and Einich will hopefully play a significant role in the conservation breeding programme, as part of the new Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan.
The plan was unveiled on September 24, with the Highland Wildlife Park set to be one of the main sites to host a population for breeding and possible reintroduction.
Douglas Richardson is head of living collections at the Highland Wildlife Park and steering group member of the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Group.
He said: “The appearance of these wildcat kittens is the latest such event in the Wildlife Park’s long history of breeding the species. But with the Wildcat Action Plan, the contribution these little chaps may make in the future to their species’ survival will hopefully be more impactful.
“The plan is for a much more aggressively managed breeding programme, running alongside a wide range of other wildcat conservation initiatives that will eventually turn the tide for the species in Scotland.”
While there is debate over the size of the remaining population of Scottish wildcats, with no reliable population estimates, experts agree the wildcat is one of the UK’s most endangered mammals.
Their biggest threat lies in hybridisation with feral populations of domestic cats and, during daily talks, the park’s keepers often explain the importance of responsible pet ownership as well as the work being done to save the species from extinction.