Police have seized a Scottish wildcat kitten from an organisation that claims to protect the rare species.
Officers from North Wales Police searched a property in the Conwy County area on Monday and found Finlay, a one-year-old wildcat.
Wildcat Haven, an animal protection firm in St Asaph, North Wales, claims it was rehabilitating the animal after finding it injured in the central Highlands, before planning to release it into the wild in the next six to eight weeks.
The Scottish wildcat is listed as a European protected species.
According to Scotland’s nature agency NatureScot, the capture, possession or release of a wildcat outside its native range requires a licence.
Members of Wildcat Haven said police seized Finlay with no warning or explanation.
A statement on the group’s website released on Tuesday read: “We asked for details of where he would be taken, what would happen to him, but the police said that they didn’t need to tell us and so Finlay’s whereabouts are still currently unknown.
“We also explained that capturing him, exposing him to multiple people and disrupting him at such a crucial time would be catastrophic to his rehabilitation. They did not listen, they did not care.”
In a bid to get Finlay back, members of the group have set up a petition on Change.org which has reached some 990,000 signatures so far.
A spokeswoman for North Wales Police said officers are investigating whether an offence under the habitat and species regulations 2017 has been committed.
She added: “North Wales Police are working with partners to ensure the animal is cared for.
“Anyone with information relating to this matter is encouraged to contact police quoting, 21000883036.”
A NatureScot spokeswoman said: “NatureScot is aware of an operation carried out by North Wales Police this week.
“We are assisting police with their inquiries and as these are ongoing we are unable to comment further at this time.”