Zoo Joins Wildcat Conservation Programme
The zoo have welcomed a young bonded pair, Ross & Cromarty, from an estate in Northern Scotland this week. This pair produced kittens last year and the zoo hope to continue breeding them in the future.
Ross is just over 3 years old and Cromarty is 4 years old. Both named after locations in Scotland where wildcats would naturally exist.
Maxine Bradley, curator at Northumberland Zoo, said 'We have been waiting quite some time to be a part of this breeding programme and we are super excited to have Ross and Cromarty come to us. We are eager not only to contribute to the conservation of this native species, but also to offer an opportunity for visitors to learn more about wildcats and hopefully capture a glimpse of this elusive species.'
Scottish Wildcats differ from domestic cats in several ways. They are bulkier with males weighing up to 8kg. Their jaw is also much larger in comparison to their body due to their wild diet. The most notable feature is their distinctive striped blunt tail. Wildcats also have a reputation of being particularly aggressive.
The captive breeding programme aims to restore viable populations of wildcats in the Scottish Highlands. The programme is coordinated by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
Scottish wildcat numbers are extremely low due to habitat fragmentation as well as interbreeding with feral domestic cats. It is doubtful that wild population numbers of pure wildcats would even reach three figures currently.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have said hybridisation is the major threat to the animals’ survival.
The scottish wildcat enclosure is located next to the Capybara on the river walk.