Four critically endangered Scottish wildcat kittens have been born at the Highland Wildlife Park.
The youngsters, named Strom, Eilein, Druim and Vaara by Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) staff, were unveiled to the public this week when the wildcat viewing area at the attraction near Kingussie was reopened.
Guests will be encouraged to wear face masks to help keep the animals and other people safe.
Keith Gilchrist, animal collection manager at Highland Wildlife Park, said: “We are thrilled to welcome the birth of four kittens, who were born during lockdown in May, to mum Fiain and dad Blair.
“We have one male, Strom, and three females, Eilein, Druim and Vaara. It has been great watching them grow and it is fantastic to now be able to welcome visitors to meet them too.”
Wildcats are one of Scotland’s rarest and most threatened animals.
In a survey carried out between 2015 and 2018, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), found that in the wild only 20% of wildcats were fully wildcat, while the remaining 80% were either hybrids or entirely domestic.
RZSS is leading a new partnership – Saving Wildcats – which aims to conserve the species by breeding and releasing wildcats back into the wild.
David Barclay, Saving Wildcats conservation manager, said: “Following a sad history of habitat loss, persecution and, more recently, breeding with domestic cats, wildcats are on the brink of extinction in Scotland but it’s not too late.
“By bringing together the expertise and skills of national and international organisations, the Saving Wildcats project can secure a future for the Highland tiger by breeding and releasing wildcats into the wild, so every birth is a potential lifeline for the species.”
Saving Wildcats is also working in partnership with NatureScot, Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS), The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), Norden’s Ark and Junta de Andalucía.