Rewilding: Wildcats to be released into Scottish Highlands in effort to restore wild population

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Wildcats were once widespread across Britain, but by the mid 19th century were wiped out across Wales and England with just a few hundred individuals surviving in remote parts of the Scottish Highlands.

With numbers now reduced so much the species faces extinction, a rewilding project to save the animal in Britain is set to release the first of a group of the striking cats into the Cairngorms.

The first of 16 wildcats has arrived at a breeding centre ahead of its release into the wild in what has been described as a “major step” in returning the species to its native range.

A young female cat named Nell has been brought from Alladale Wilderness Reserve in northern Scotland and has “settled well” into the centre, which is not open to the public, but provides breeding space, veterinary care, remote monitoring and training to prepare cats for life in the wild, conservationists said.

It is hoped any kittens she rears will be among the first cats released into the Scottish Highlands next year as part of the Saving Wildcats project to restore the critically endangered species in Scotland.

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