More Puuurr-fect Highland Kittens - Sunday 20th October 2013

At the Highland Wildlife Park, two rare Scottish wildcat kittens have just started to explore outside their den. Both kittens are female and have been named Ness and Einich, in keeping with the Park's tradition to name wildcats after lochs. Ness and Einich 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 and 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 Action Plan was unveiled on 24th September, with the Highland Wildlife Park set to be one of the main sites to host a population for breeding and possible reintroduction. Douglas Richardson, Head of Living Collections at the Highland Wildlife Park and steering group member of the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Group, says: "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 that 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 currently debate over the size of the remaining population of Scottish wildcats, with no reliable population estimates, experts agree that 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 that is being done to save the species from extinction. As the only wild member of the cat family to survive in - Scotland - Sunday 20th October 2013 (1 image)

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