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Saturday, 31 August, 2002, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Wildcats follow trail north
Wildcat generic - picture supplied by wildlife images
The wildcats will travel north of the border
Some of the rarest wildcats in the UK are to be moved to their natural habitat north of the border as part of a drive to protect the species.

Four Scottish wildcat kittens have been born at Wingham Wildlife Park near Canterbury, Kent, and staff now hope to transfer the animals to the north of Scotland.

There are only about 200 Scottish wildcats left north of the border - predominantly in the Highlands.

The Edinburgh-based Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) said the arrival of the new kittens was "a major coup" for the UK.


This really is a great opportunity to boost the numbers of one of Britain's rarest animals

Doreen Graham SSPCA

SSPCA spokeswoman Doreen Graham said it was extremely difficult to breed captured Scottish wildcats.

Keeper Leigh Wigg said the secret to the park's success was preventing the cats from having too much contact with humans and giving the animals a varied diet.

"We knew it would be difficult and are just over the moon that these kittens have arrived," he said.

"We did a lot of research into the species and believe we got the environment right for them and went out of our way to stay out of their way and leave them to it."

Mr Wigg said staff at the 250-acre park hope the kittens will take part in a captive breeding programme.

'Ideal location'

"We really want them to go back to their natural habitat to help raise the numbers of this adorable species."

He said the park would contact various organisations and individuals in Scotland to see if they could help.

Mrs Graham said it was vital the kittens were placed in an environment suitable to their needs and with adequate prey.

"It may prove quite difficult to get the right spot for these kittens as it is essential they are placed in the ideal location to suit their needs.

"This really is a great opportunity to boost the numbers of one of Britain's rarest animals."

See also:

28 Aug 02 | UK
03 Jul 02 | Scotland
13 Oct 02 | England
05 Feb 00 | UK
19 Aug 99 | UK
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