Wildcat kittens born as part of Highland conservation programme pictured for first time

A pair of rare wildcat kittens have been captured on camera for the first time.

The kittens. Picture: SWNS

The two adorable female kittens were born as part of a conservation programme to protect the animals which have been described as 'functionally extinct'.

They were born at the Aigas Field Centre near Beauly in the Scottish Highlands, and are now a few weeks old.

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Nicknamed the 'Highland Tiger' because of their vertical stripes, keepers say the fluffy kittens are competent climbers with 'bags of ferocity'.

The centre has been running the breeding programme since 2011, with nine wildcats, and this is the first litter for their mother Glynis.

At this age, the kittens have more markings than their parents, but this will change as they get older and develop a thick bushy blunt ended, black tipped tail.

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A spokesman at the centre said: "We have several conservation projects on the go at Aigas, but the Wildcat Breeding Programme is by far our most critical.

"We are delighted to see all the hard work put in by all our team of rangers rewarded with two new little faces.

"Glynis was quite a relaxed female up to the point she became a mother.

"However, since giving birth she has become very protective of both kittens and guards the entrance to their enclosure.

"In the last week, our kittens have become much bolder and can collect their own food. Glynis is back to her relaxed self and watches her kittens play and learn.

"It is as if they set challenges for each other, who can climb the highest or run the fastest.

"Having a sibling is defiantly a bonus if you are a young wildcat and it has been fascinating to watch them investigate new smells and climb stumps and posts in their enclosure together.

"The wildcat in Scotland is now considered functionally extinct in the wild, there are just too few spread over too large an area, which makes breeding programmes such as ours vital to their conservation."