Highlands & Islands

Rare wildcat kittens born at Highlands field centre

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Media captionThe battle to secure a foothold for wildcats lies in the future of kittens like these

Two Scottish wildcat kittens have been born at a centre involved in a captive breeding programme.

The mammals have been described as "functionally extinct" in the wild.

Their numbers are now so low that new research has concluded there is "no longer a viable wildcat population living wild in Scotland".

The two female kittens were born at the Aigas Field Centre near Beauly in the Highlands. The centre has had a breeding programme since 2011.

Image copyright Ben Jones
Image caption The kittens are only weeks old

It forms part of the wider Scottish Wildcat Action project involving the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which has wildcats at its Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore.

Aigas' kittens are the first litter for a wildcat called Glynis.

They are now a few weeks old and have started exploring their enclosure.

Image copyright Ben Jones
Image caption The kittens are both females

In the future wildcats bred at Aigas could be released into the wild, but the centre said threats to the species had still to be overcome.

Breeding with domestic cats is a major threat to the survival of Scotland's genetically-pure wildcats.

The animals have also declined due to loss of habitat and disease.

Image copyright Ben Jones
Image caption Captive bred wildcats could be released into the wild in the future

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