Efforts to save the Scottish wildcat from extinction have taken a major step forwards after the first cat was introduced to the Saving Wildcats conservation breeding for release centre at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s (RZSS) Highland Wildlife Park.
Nell, a young female, arrived from Alladale Wilderness Reserve earlier this month and has settled well into the off-show centre, which provides breeding space, veterinary care, remote monitoring and training to prepare cats for life in the wild.
It is hoped that any kittens Nell rears will be among the first cats released into the Scottish Highlands next year as part of the Saving Wildcats project to restore the critically endangered species in Scotland. The project is led by RZSS in collaboration with NatureScot, Forestry and Land Scotland, the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Norden’s Ark and Junta de Andalucía.
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.”
Donations to help save Scotland’s wildcats can be made at savingwildcats.org.uk