Latest News - NEWS: Chester Zoo carnivore experts breed Britain’s rarest mammal, the Scottish wildcat

NEWS: Chester Zoo carnivore experts breed Britain’s rarest mammal, the Scottish wildcat

Originally published by Chester Zoo.

Amazing video footage has captured a rare Scottish wildcat kitten, bred at Chester Zoo, emerging from its den for the first time since birth.

The arrival of the kitten has given a big boost to a conservation programme which is working to bring Britain’s rarest mammal back from the edge of extinction.

Experts believe there could now be fewer than 100 individuals left in the wild making the Scottish wildcat, or ‘Highland tiger’ as it is affectionately known, one of the most endangered populations of cats in the world.

Wildcats once thrived in Britain but were almost hunted to extinction for their fur and to stop them preying on valuable game birds. They are now protected under UK law but remain under huge threat from cross-breeding with feral and domestic cats, habitat loss and accidental persecution.

A co-ordinated action plan to save the highly threatened animals, named Scottish Wildcat Action, has been devised to protect the species and involves over 20 conservation partners including Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Government, The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the Forestry Commission Scotland, as well as Chester Zoo’s Act for Wildlife conservation campaign. Conservation breeding in zoos for their eventual release has been identified as an important component in the long term recovery plan for the animals.

Tim Rowlands, Chester Zoo’s curator of mammals, said:

“The arrival of the new kitten is a major boost to the increasingly important captive population in Britain. It was born in May but has spent the first few months safely tucked up in its den with mum Einich and has only recently gained enough confidence to venture out and explore. It won’t be too long until this little kitten grows into a powerful predator.

“Conservation breeding in zoos is a key element in the wider plan to conserve the species in the UK and, drawing on the unique skills, knowledge and knowhow of the carnivore experts working here, we’re breeding Scottish wildcats to increase the safety net population and hope to release their offspring into the highlands of Scotland in the future.

“In tandem with our breeding programme we’re also supporting monitoring work in the Scottish highlands and have funded camera traps that are being used to identify areas where wildcat populations are thriving or suffering.

“This project is of national importance and shows what an important role zoos can play in helping to save local species. We’re very much part of efforts to maximise the chances of maintaining a wild population of the stunning Scottish wildcat for the long term.”

Chester Zoo’s three Scottish wildcats – adult female Einich, male Cromarty and the new kitten - are currently in a special behind-the-scenes breeding facility. They are not directly on show to the public but visitors to the zoo can see them via a live webcam.

Notes to editors

About Scottish wildcats

  • Chester Zoo’s Scottish wildcat kitten was born on 13 May 2016. Keepers do not yet know its sex
  • The kitten’s parents are female Einich (2) and male Chromity (3)
  • Scottish wildcats are Britain’s rarest mammal and only remaining wild feline species
  • Recent reports by the Scottish Wildcat Association estimate that less than 100 individuals, and possibly as few as 35, may remain in the wild. It means the Scottish wildcat – or Highland tiger as it’s affectionately known - is one of the most endangered populations of cats in the world
  • A co-ordinated action plan to protect and conserve the species called Scottish Wildcat Action, involving over 20 partners including Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Government and the Forestry Commission Scotland, has identified conservation breeding as a key component in the programme
  • The conservation breeding programme is being managed by Douglas Richardson at RZSS, with the assistance of the Aspinall Foundation
  • Chester Zoo was one of the first zoos to step up and offer its expert breeding skills and knowledge and an off-show breeding facility has been built at the zoo specially for Scottish wildcats, enabling the zoo to play a vital role in saving the species
  • The zoo’s Scottish Wildcat breeding facility was built thanks to the kind donations fromBrian Wilson Charitable Trust, Mrs Carole Brown, Mrs D M France-Hayhurst Charitable Trust, The Peter Foden Family Charitable Trust, The Ronald and Kathleen Pryor Charity
  • As well as its conservation breeding programme, Chester Zoo has partnered up with Scottish Wildcat Action and has supported their wildcat monitoring work in the highlands of Scotland by providing funding for camera traps. These camera traps are used to identify areas where wildcat populations are thriving or suffering
  • For more see:

About Chester Zoo

  • Chester Zoo ( is a registered conservation and education charity that supports projects around the world and closer to home in Cheshire. Welcoming 1.6 million visitors a year, it is the most visited zoo in the UK; home to over 20,000 animals and more than 500 different species, many of which are endangered in the wild
  • In July 2015 the zoo was named the UK’s best zoo by users of travel website, TripAdvisor
  • Through its wildlife conservation campaign, Act for Wildlife, the zoo is helping to save highly threatened species around the world from extinction. Find out more at
  • @chesterzoo / @ScienceatCZ / @actforwildlife


Chester Zoo

This content was made possible by our Partners & Funders at Chester Zoo


Image for Vicky Burns

Vicky is the Communications Coordinator for Scottish Wildcat Action. She has a background in third sector communications and marketing and is based at the Scottish Wildlife Trust office in Edinburgh.

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