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Wildcat project prepares for breeding season
Saving Wildcats released 19 wildcats into the wild last year.
New pairs have been created to increase genetic diversity.

Sixteen wildcats have been paired up at a Scottish Zoo as the Saving Wildcats conservation project prepares for its third breeding season.

If all goes to plan, it is hoped the wildcats born this year will be released into the wild next summer to help boost the population of the critically endangered species.

The team at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s (RZSS’s) Highland Wildlife Park have put together two new breeding pairs. They hope that the move will help increase the genetic diversity of the wild population as it grows.

The wildcats born at the zoo last year are currently in pre-release enclosures which are designed to support their development and prepare them for release into the wild. The project plans to release them in the Cairngorms National Park this summer. In June 2023, 19 were released.

The only native cat still living in the wild in Britain, the wild population has been at risk from interbreeding with feral cats in recent decades. Surveys conducted between 2010 and 2013 estimated that there were between 115 and 314 individuals left.

Estelle Morgan, Saving Wildcats senior keeper, said: “Managing the wildcats from their birth until their eventual release into the wild is incredibly rewarding. We get to see the wildcats grow and help them prepare for the challenges of life in the wild, using tools which minimise disturbance, to give them the best possible chances of survival.” 

David Barclay, Saving Wildcats conservation manager, added: “The birth of kittens in the centre highlights another critical milestone for our expert keeper team whilst demonstrating how integral zoos are in restoring many threatened species. Without a carefully managed captive breeding population, we would not have been able to conduct the first ever releases of wildcats into Britain last year.”

Led by the RZSS, the Saving Wildcats project is carried out in collaboration with NatureScot, Forestry and Land Scotland, The Cairngorms National Park Authority, Norden’s  Ark, Consejería de Sostenibilidad, and Medio Ambiente y Economía Azul de la Junta de Andalucía, with releases conducted in collaboration with Cairngorms Connect.

Image © Shutterstock

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Rabbit Awareness Week set to return this summer

News Story 1
 Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) is returning this summer, running from 24-28 June 2024. The theme for this year will be 'Healthy Diet, Happy Bunnies'.

The focus on rabbits' diet comes after the most recent PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report report revealed that 42 per cent of veterinary professionals identified inappropriate diet as one of the five most important rabbit welfare issues that need to be address.

The campaign will include veterinary blogs, videos, and digital waiting room resources. Practices can sign up to receive updates about RAW. 

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