A rare Scottish wildcat kitten born at Chester Zoo has been captured on camera for the first time.
The female kitten, born in August, could offer a “lifeline for the species”, zoo bosses said.
Wildcats, also known as Highland tigers, are Britain’s rarest mammals and as few as 100 are estimated to remain in the UK.
Chester Zoo’s curator of mammals Tim Rowlands said: “Unlike domestic cats who can have several litters a year, Scottish wildcats will usually only have one, so every birth is really, really significant.
😻 SCOTTISH WILDCAT KITTEN BORN 😻— Chester Zoo (@chesterzoo) December 7, 2018
They are Britain's RAREST mammal and only 100 remain in the wild. That's why this little kitten is so incredibly special... pic.twitter.com/NXxO2oDcsl
“The kitten was born to parents Einich and Cromarty in August but, given their incredibly elusive nature, had not been caught on camera until now.
“It’s ever so special to see just how active the kitten already is and how she’s already starting to practise the skills that these magnificent stealth hunters use to pounce on their prey.”
“Conservation breeding in zoos is a key component in the wider plan to prevent Scottish wildcats from disappearing altogether – and each new arrival offers another lifeline for the species.”
Scottish wildcats once thrived in Britain but were hunted to the brink of extinction for their fur and to stop them from preying on game birds.
As the only remaining wild feline species, wildcats are protected under UK law but are still under huge threat from habitat loss, cross-breeding with domestic cats and disease.
Chester Zoo is one of a number of conservation partners which form Scottish Wildcat Action – a co-ordinated effort to bring the tenacious hunters back from the brink.