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Rare wildcat kitten born at Chester Zoo

A rare Scottish wildcat kitten has been born at Chester Zoo and cameras have captured the first footage .

The female kitten is part of a breeding programme to save Britain’s rarest mammal and conservationists have welcomed the new arrival as “another lifeline for the species.”

As few as 100 wildcats – also known as the ‘Highland tiger’ – are estimated to remain in the UK. The wildcat was hunted to the brink of extinction for their fur and to stop them from preying on game birds. Now protected under UK law, wildcats are still under huge threat, however, from habitat loss, cross-breeding with domestic cats and disease.

Tim Rowlands, the zoo’s Curator of Mammals, said: “Unlike domestic cats who can have several litters a year, Scottish wildcats will usually only have one, so every birth is really, really significant.

The kitten was born to parents Einich and Cromarty in August but, given their incredibly elusive nature, had not been caught on camera until now. It’s ever so special to see just how active the kitten already is and how she’s already starting to practise the skills that these magnificent, stealth hunters use to pounce on their prey.

Conservation breeding in zoos is a key component in the wider plan to prevent Scottish wildcats from disappearing altogether – and each new arrival offers another lifeline for the species. The hope is that the safety net population being bred by our carnivore experts will be released into the highlands of Scotland in the future. We’re very much part of the vision to restore and maintain a wild population of the stunning Scottish wildcat for the long term.”

Chester Zoo is one of a number of conservation partners which form Scottish Wildcat Action – a co-ordinated effort to bring the tenacious hunters back from the brink.

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