Critically endangered Scottish wildcat kittens born at Highland Wildlife Park

The Daily Record – Sarah Ward & Alexander Smail

A group of five Scottish wildcat kittens have been born at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s (RZSS) Highland Wildlife Park, who have shared adorable photos to mark the occasion.

First-time mum Talla gave birth to the litter at Wildcat Wood on April 2. The adorable kittens will be on show for the public to visit, unlike other wildcats which are part of a breeding project.

The newborns of the critically endangered species are doing well and will receive their first health checks in the coming weeks, according to keepers at the wildlife conservation charity. At that time, vets will be able to determine their sex.

Animal collection manager at Highland Wildlife Park Keith Gilchrist commented: “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.”

Working alongside national and international experts, the RZSS leads the partnership project Saving Wildcats, which aims to restore Scotland’s critically endangered wildcat population. The project works to breed and release wildcats 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 newborn kittens are managed as part of the UK breeding programme held by RZSS. They could eventually play an important role in the recovery efforts in Scotland.