Conservationists have released 19 young wildcats into the Scottish Highlands as part of an effort to bring the cherished animal back from the edge of extinction.
Scottish wildcats, which measure around 25 percent bigger than domestic cats, were once common in Scotland, but as of 2019, only around 30 remained in the wild. To boost their numbers, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland began nurturing young cats at a wildlife park in Kingussie.
Over the past three months, conservationists set loose 19 of these cats into the forested Cairngorm Mountains, The Guardian reported, in the first phase of a plan to release some 60 wildcats.
So far, just one of the newly released cats has died, with the rest reportedly adapting well to their new surroundings. “We have seen evidence that the cats are able to hunt and fend for themselves,” Helen Senn, of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, told The Guardian. “From that perspective, we’re really happy.”
Other species now being reintroduced in Scotland include capercaillies (a member of the grouse family), pine martens, red squirrels, golden eagles, and beavers. Said Senn, “Conservation can be quite depressing, and I think it’s really important that people feel it can make a difference.”