See adorable Scottish wildcat kittens which are key to species survival
The cute animals have an important role.
Three adorable Scottish wildcat kittens have started to explore their home just months after being born.
These pictures captured some of the adventurous first steps taken by the animals at the Highland Wildlife Park in the Cairngorms National Park.
The birth of the trio takes the number of wildcat kittens born at the park, part of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, to 20 in the last four years.
The kittens were born on April 11 and have spent the first few months of life in their dens. They are now starting to “become slightly more independent of mum”, says the park, which released the new images.
Their Forest Habitat enclosure includes overhead tunnels which they have started to explore and the kittens have also been seen play-fighting.
And being cute, of course.
But there is a serious point to make their arrival all the more exciting than just being kittens.
Scottish wildcats, also known as Highland tigers, are rare and face a risk of extinction due to cross breading with domestic and feral cats. They are Scotland’s last remaining native cat species and there are possibly as few as 110 wildcats left in the wild.
Douglas Richardson, head of living collections at the park, said: “The three female kittens are another important addition to the captive population. Fathered by wild-born dad Zak, who came to us as an abandoned kitten in 2012, they possess genes which are valuable to the population and will allow new breeding pairs to be established in the future.
“Our plan is that they will go on to play an important role in the conservation of the species and, with possibly as few as 110 wildcats left in the wild, the importance of a well-managed captive population cannot be overstated.”
Highland Wildlife Park has reared more than 50 wildcat kittens in the last 37 years.