Resilient Animals – Rescued Scottish Wildcat kittens among last of their kind

The orphaned sister and brother pair will be released to the wild when they’re old enough to survive on their own.

These two Scottish wildcat kittens are among the last of their kind. A type of European wildcat found only in the Scottish Highlands, around 35 individuals remain. The brother and sister were found alone in the wild, at seven weeks old.

Conservation organization Wildcat Haven rescued the orphans. They are now at a rehabilitation center in a large enclosure, with minimal human contact. The two kittens will be released in the West Highlands in the spring, when they are old enough to survive in the wild.

Though they appear similar, wildcats can be as much as twice the size of domestic cats. They have mostly unbroken stripes, and thick, blunt tails with distinct bands and a black tip. Keen nocturnal hunters, they commonly hunt small mammals, like mice, voles, and hares. Hybridization, a result of interbreeding with feral and domestic cats, threatens the Scottish wildcats’ survival. Conservationists are working to protect the wildcats’ habitat, and to neuter domestic cats in targeted areas.

The kittens were photographed for the National Geographic Photo Ark, a project to document all species in the world’s zoos and wildlife sanctuaries — including those that are threatened. Photo Ark aims to use the power of photography to inspire people to help save species at risk.

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