Wildcat

Chester Zoo Releases Video of Rare Wildcat Kitten

Wildcat kitten screengrab from video

Chester Zoo has released amazing video footage they captured of a rare Scottish Wildcat kitten, bred at the Zoo, emerging from its den for the first time since birth.

The endangered wildcat was born on May 13, and keepers do not yet know its sex.

The arrival of the kitten (the first to ever be born at the Cheshire, UK zoo) has given a big boost to a conservation programme, which is working to bring Britain’s rarest mammal back from the edge of extinction.

Experts believe there could now be fewer than 100 individuals left in the wild, making the Scottish Wildcat, or ‘Highland Tiger’ as it is affectionately known, one of the most endangered populations of cats in the world.

Wildcats once thrived in Britain but were almost hunted to extinction for their fur and to stop them preying on valuable game birds. They are now protected under UK law but remain under huge threat from crossbreeding with feral and domestic cats, habitat loss, and accidental persecution.

Scottish Wildcat mum, Einich:

Female wildcat Einich (3)Photo/Video Credit: Chester Zoo

 

A coordinated action plan to save the highly threatened animals, named Scottish Wildcat Action, has been devised to protect the species and involves over 20 conservation partners including Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Government, The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the Forestry Commission Scotland, as well as Chester Zoo’s Act for Wildlife conservation campaign. Conservation breeding in zoos, for their eventual release, has been identified as an important component in the long-term recovery plan for the animals.

Tim Rowlands, Chester Zoo’s Curator of Mammals, said, “The arrival of the new kitten is a major boost to the increasingly important captive population in Britain. It was born in May but has spent the first few months safely tucked up in its den with mum, Einich, and has only recently gained enough confidence to venture out and explore. It won’t be too long until this little kitten grows into a powerful predator.

“Conservation breeding in zoos is a key element in the wider plan to conserve the species in the UK and, drawing on the unique skills, knowledge and knowhow of the carnivore experts working here, we’re breeding Scottish Wildcats to increase the safety net population and hope to release their offspring into the highlands of Scotland in the future.

“In tandem with our breeding programme, we’re also supporting monitoring work in the Scottish highlands and have funded camera traps that are being used to identify areas where wildcat populations are thriving or suffering.

“This project is of national importance and shows what an important role zoos can play in helping to save local species. We’re very much part of efforts to maximise the chances of maintaining a wild population of the stunning Scottish Wildcat for the long term.”

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Kittens a Boost for Scotland's Vanishing Wildcats

16_07_12 13 DSC_2020_CreditAlexRiddell
Two litters of rare Scottish Wildcats born at Highland Wildlife Park could play a huge role in the conservation of this species, which is considered by some to be Europe’s rarest mammal.

The kittens’ birth is part of a conservation program and could result in the species’ eventual reintroduction to some protected areas of Scotland.

16_07_12 14 DSC_2023_CreditAlexRidell
Wildcat kitten_Credit_JanMorse
16_07_12 20 DSC_2054_CreditAlexRidellPhoto Credits:  RZSS/Alex Riddell (1, 2, 4), RZSS/Jan Morse (3)

For several months, the kittens have been tucked safely in their dens with their mothers, but they have begun venturing outdoors recently.  The playfulness that zoo guests observe between the mothers and their babies is actually an important part of developing the kittens’ survival skills.

Also known as the Highland Tiger, this rare native species is facing the threat of extinction due to hybridization with domestic and feral Cats, habitat loss, and accidental persecution.   The species is Critically Endangered in Scotland and is the only wild Cat native to Scotland.

The zoo is partnering with other Scottish conservation organizations to develop an action plan for preserving the species.  The captive breeding program managed by the zoo provides an increasingly important safety net as the wild population of this Wildcat continues to decline.

Although some similarities with Domestic Cats exist, the two species are not to be confused. The Scottish Wildcat is an isolated sub-population of the European Wildcat, which is found in continental Europe. Wildcats prefer to live alone but will come together for breeding, normally giving birth to two or three kittens, which the mother will protect fiercely.

With their big, bushy, black-ringed tail and tenacious behavior, Scottish Wildcats play a large role in Scottish lore, and were often used in clan crests.


Scottish Wildcat Kitten Twins Debut

Wildcat Kittens at Edinburgh Zoo 2

Meet Merida and Brave, Highland Wildlife Park's 10 week old Scottish Wildcat twins. Born April 8th, the brother and sister pair are quite adventurous, exploring their exhibit, wrestling, and practicing their pounce. The kittens are certainly keeping proud parents, five year old mum Seasaidh and eight year old dad Hamish, busy.

Scottish Wildcats, also known as Highland Tigers, are one of Britain’s rarest animals with as few as 400 thought to be left in the UK, mainly in the Scottish Highlands. These felines at first glance could be mistaken for a feral domestic cat, but have wider heads, distinctive striped coats, and blunt, bushy tails.

Scottish Wildcat Kitten Edinburgh Zoo

Una Richardson, head keeper at the Highland Wildlife Park, said:

“As there are thought to be less than 400 Scottish Wildcats left in the Highlands, these cats are incredibly rare and endangered so this is a huge milestone for this species and the park. The kittens will play a vital role in the conservation of this historic Scottish species along withincreasing visitor awareness of the problems facing this most iconic Scottish animal.”


Go Wildcats!

You might be asking yourself, "Why is ZooBorns posting a story on domestic cats?" Look closely though... These are European Wildcats. Snapped at Germany's Opel Zoo just yesterday by Joachim S Muller, the kittens are fine examples of this species native to Western, Central, and Eastern Europe. Studies suggest that all domestic cats are descended from the Wildcat, of which the European Wildcat is a subspecies.

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