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Record breeding year for critically endangered wildcats - The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

wildcat kitten looking at the camera from a conifer tree
Credit: Highland Wildlife Park

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) is celebrating a record breeding year after 57 wildcat kittens were born within the UK conservation breeding programme in 2020.

In total, 22 litters of kittens were welcomed across 10 of the many zoos, wildlife parks and private collections working with the wildlife conservation charity which has managed the captive population since 2015, ensuring it has the potential to support conservation efforts for the critically endangered species.

Following habitat loss, persecution and breeding with domestic cats, wildcats are on the brink of extinction in Britain and RZSS is also leading a new partnership project, Saving Wildcats, which aims to secure a future for the Highland tiger by breeding wildcats and releasing them into the wild.

David Barclay, Saving Wildcats ex-situ conservation manager and coordinator of the UK conservation breeding programme, said, “Wildcats are one of Britain’s rarest and most endangered mammals which means every one of these kittens is a potential lifeline. Over the last few years, the members of the wildcat breeding programme have demonstrated the immense value in working together to secure a future for this iconic species.”

As part of the Saving Wildcats project, a dedicated conservation breeding for release centre is being built at Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore. The centre will provide facilities for breeding, veterinary care, remote monitoring and training to prepare the cats for life in the wild, with the goal of releasing the first cats in 2022.

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