Adorable wildcat kittens emerge from den just weeks after birth

Picture: SWNS
Picture: SWNS
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These are the adorable rare Scottish wildcat kittens which have emerged from their den just weeks after birth.

READ MORE - Scottish wildcat and red squirrel among UK’s most threatened land mammals

Picture: SWNS

Picture: SWNS

The kittens, born to mother Maree and father Heath at the Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre in the picturesque Perthshire hills, are the first two wildcats to arrive at the centre.

They cute pair are part of a breeding programme which aims to provide a lifeline for the iconic Scottish species that has seen a sharp decline in recent decades.

Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre owner Maxine Scott said the kittens are both doing “really well”.

She said: “We didn’t announce it initially as we wanted to give them a chance to get used to their surroundings and be with their mum, who is really protective over them.

Picture: SWNS

Picture: SWNS

“The wildcat is a critically endangered species and programmes like this are imperative otherwise we will just see the species die out.”

Staff at the centre must wait until the cats are nine weeks old before they can hold them and find out their gender.

The Scottish wildcat faces the threat of extinction due to breeding with domestic and feral cats, habitat loss and accidental persecution.

Studies also suggest there may be as few as 115 Scottish wildcats left in the wild making them the one of the UK’s most endangered mammals.

Now, the two will possess genes that allow for new breeding pairs to be established and grow.

Also this year three wildcat kittens were born to mother Ness at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park.

Royal Zoological Society of Scotland project officer David Barclay, said: “Scottish wildcats are facing severe threats due to cross-breeding with domestic and feral cats, disease transfer and accidental persecution.

“Our conservation breeding programme and work with partners in Scottish Wildcat Action, the national conservation project, is therefore vital.

“Every birth is a potential lifeline and improves the chances of a genetically healthy population that can act as a source for future wildcat release.

“Together with our partners in Scottish Wildcat Action, Scotland’s national conservation project for the species, we will continue to deliver conservation efforts for the species and make sure we give them the greatest hope of survival for future generations”

While they may share some similarities with the domestic tabby cat, the Scottish wildcat is known for having a wide flat head, distinctly striped coat and a bushy blunt-ended tail with dark rings.

The species is now fully protected by law and confined to the Central and Northern Highlands of mainland Scotland ENDS+44 (0)141 774 6969.

READ MORE - Wildcat kittens born at Edinburgh Zoo could provide ‘lifeline’ for the species