A Scottish wildcat has been introduced to a ‘breed and release’ centre in the Highlands as part of efforts to save the species from extinction.
Nell is the first of 16 cats to arrive at Highland Wildlife Park, near Aviemore, and it is hoped any kittens she rears will be among the first to be released into the wild as part of the Saving Wildcats project.
Young Nell, who arrived from Alladale Wilderness Reserve in Sutherland earlier this month, 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.
The project is led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (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 here.