A major step has been taken toward saving the Scottish wildcat from the brink of extinction as the first cat is introduced to a conservation ‘breeding for release centre’ at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park.
Nell, a young female, arrived from Alladale Wilderness Reserve earlier this month as part of the Saving Wildcats project which aims to restore the critically endangered species in Scotland.
It is hoped that any kittens Nell rears will be among the first cats released into the Scottish Highlands next year, with the off-show centre providing breeding space, veterinary care, remote monitoring and training to prepare cats for life in the wild.
David Barclay, Saving Wildcats ex-situ conservation manager, said, “Saving Wildcats is an incredibly exciting partnership bringing together the necessary resources and expertise to save Scotland’s iconic wildcat.
“Nell is the first cat to be introduced into our breeding for release centre at Highland Wildlife Park and she has settled well into her new surroundings.
“A further 15 cats will be arriving at the centre in the coming weeks, giving us a healthy, genetically diverse population to breed from. Offspring will then be transferred to larger pre-release enclosures as they mature where they will undergo a dedicated training programme to prepare them for life in the wild. We hope the first cats will be ready to be introduced into a site in the Scottish Highlands in 2022.”
The Saving Wildcats project is led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland in collaboration with NatureScot, Forestry and Land Scotland, the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Norden’s Ark and Junta de Andalucía.
Donations to help save Scotland’s wildcats can be made at savingwildcats.org.uk
Main image: Wildcat Nell and siblings (Alladale Wilderness Reserve/Saving Wildcats)