Birth of Scottish wildcat kittens is sign of hope for species, conservationists say

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By Euronews
Screenshot AP - Scottish wildcat kitten
Screenshot AP - Scottish wildcat kitten   -  Copyright  AP/ screenshot

Wildcats are on the verge of extinction in Scotland, but the births of two separate litters recently have given hope to conservationists trying secure their future.

The Aigas Field Centre in northern Scotland is home to nine wildcats, which are part of a nation-wide captive breeding programme that includes around 100 of the felines.

"The wildcat kittens we had born here this year represent another important step in the wider wildcat conservation effort that is taking place across the country," said naturalist Ben Jones.

"The wildcat in Scotland is currently considered functionally extinct so there's not enough out in the wild to carry on a healthy population. So the only way to save them is through conservation breeding programmes such as ours here at Aigas Field Centre."

While the ultimate goal is to reintroduce the animals into the wild, various obstacles remain including a deterioration in the cats' natural habitat and the risk of cross-breeding with domestic feral cats.

"A the moment, we're in the stage of building up that captive population so that when those threats in the wild have been addressed, we can put them back out into healthy habitats," Jones said.

Regarding the two kittens in the above video, Jones said: "They're roughly eleven weeks old and doing absolutely fine. They just started eating meat, so quails and rabbits and chicks are all on the menu for them now."