[A] pair of extremely rare Scottish Wildcats have arrived at The Lake District Wildlife Park near Keswick, as part of a special project to help save the species from extinction in Scotland.
It’s a major coup for the Park, which has aspired to bring a pair of Wildcats to the county for the past 10 years and now has the honour of homing two so-called ‘Highland Tigers’ in Cumbria as part of an internationally important breeding programme.
Some estimates say there could be as few as 100 Scottish Wildcats left in the wild and they are regarded as one of the most endangered mammals in the UK. Although they have some similarities with the tabby cat, they are slightly larger than their domestic cousins and have larger bushier tails with distinctive dark rings.
The two young females ‘Skye’ and ‘Jura’ were born last year and have just taken up residence in a specially-built enclosure, where visitors can now get a first-hand look at the new arrivals.
Park Manager, Richard Robinson, says, “Wildcats are in serious danger of extinction in Scotland and you’d be extremely lucky to catch a glimpse of them in the wild. We’re excited to welcome Skye and Jura and introduce these magnificent creatures to people who’ve never had the chance to see them close-up before.
He adds, “This exciting – and vital – breeding programme is ultimately about re-introducing the species back into the wild. However, one of the biggest threats to Scottish Wildcats is cross-mating with domestic cats, so a carefully managed, long-term approach is really important to help preserve the species.”
The Scottish Wildcats have joined a variety of their feline cousins already living at The Lake District Wildlife Park near Keswick. That includes an Asian Fishing Cat, which has been successfully bred at the Park as part of the European Endangered Species Programme.
There are also two Northern Eurasian Lynx, which died out in the UK thousands of years ago, but would have once roamed the forests of Cumbria.