Two orphaned Scottish wildcat kittens have been rescued by conservation group Wildcat Haven, and moved to a purpose-built rehabilitation and release centre in the West Highlands.
They will be released back into the wild at the first opportunity and will provide a “priceless” addition to the wild population.
While most wildcat sightings reported to Wildcat Haven turn out to be domestic tabby cats or part-wildcat ‘hybrids’, this is the first time they have been recently born wildcat kittens, seemingly orphaned and not far from a road.
“I almost fell off my chair when I saw the photos,” explains Wildcat Haven’s chief scientific advisor Dr Paul O’Donoghue.
“The markings looked amazing, far better than any kitten I’d seen in a zoo, but in a very exposed place. It seemed likely they had been abandoned or orphaned and were in grave danger.”
(Photo: Charlie Chandler)
“I am overjoyed that we’ve been able to give these two orphaned wildcat kittens a lifeline,” continues O’Donoghue.
“They’re safe in the largest wildcat enclosure in Europe, Highland Titles have literally put a fence round a forest, there’s even a stream. It’s a near-wild environment for these priceless kittens to grow into adults with our whole team looking out for them as they do so.
“I hope everyone across the Highlands remembers we have this facility available; orphaned kittens or injured adults, we can provide them a safe place to recover, and ensure their return to the wild. We must do everything we can to keep as many wildcats in the wild as possible. The look in these kittens’ eyes tells you immediately that they don’t belong in a cage.
“Once these kittens are old enough they will be released at the first opportunity. Any wildcat that comes here will be returned to the wild. The purest wildcats are in the wild, they can be protected there, and it’s where they belong, not in a cage selling zoo tickets. These kittens will be a huge boost for the species in the wild”
The Scottish wildcat, which can grow up to twice the size of a domestic pet cat and has much thicker fur, is one of the rarest animals in the world with only 35 thought to exist.
If you ever come across wildcat kittens don’t assume they have been abandoned. Their mother may have just left them to go hunting. Try to get some photos and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org with the location and your contact number.