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(HWP)
The survival of his species is weighing on this lil’ guy … but he has some help. (HWP)

The Highland Wildlife Park, in Kincraig, Scotland, welcomes two Scottish wildcat kittens, much-needed additions to the species of endangered mammals. In keeping with the Park’s tradition, the two female kittens have been named Ness and Einich, after lochs.

Scottish wildcats are rare and difficult to spot, so this is a unique chance to observe the kittens in their preferred habitat, young trees.

The Park is taking part in the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan, unveiled on September 24, 2013, as one of the main sites to host breeding and possible reintroduction.

Ness and Einich play a significant role in the conservation breeding program with Douglas Richardson, Head of Living Collections, saying, “The contribution that these little chaps may make in the future to their species’ survival will hopefully be impactful.”

“There is no reliable population estimate,” reports the Park but they write in a press release, “experts agree that the wildcat is one of the UK’s most endangered mammals.” While the Park doesn’t want to commit to a number, sadly, the wildcats’ population is reportedly in the double digits.

The Action Plan will take more aggressive steps in increasing and protecting the wildcat population than what’s been seen in the past.

The Park helped clarify the difference between a wildcat and a domestic cat:

• While Scottish wildcats might look very similar to domestic cats at first glance, there are several key differences: they have a wide, flat head, a bushy tail with dark rings and a distinctly striped coat.

• Unlike the domestic cat, the wildcat is a seasonal breeder. Mating occurs during February and two-to-four kittens are born approximately 68 days later. The family breaks up after about five months, when the young leave to establish their own territory.

The Park, along with the Edinburgh Zoo, is a part of The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

The Scottish wildcat is now fully protected by law.

If you’d like to learn more about the wildcats and other programs going on at The Highland Wildlife Park go here. Or, follow the Park on Facebook.

Have you ever been to the Scottish Highlands?

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By Brigid Brown