THEY may look a bit like domestic tabbies, but these are some of the world’s rarest and most iconic animals — Scottish wildcats.
They belong to a family of five that have recently taken up residence at the Scottish Deer Centre just outside Cupar as part of a major conservation programme.
With fewer than 400 reckoned to be in the wild and just a handful in captivity, it’s feared that the pure Scottish wildcat — sometimes known as ‘the tiger of the Highlands’ — could become extinct within the next five years.
Numbers are in decline because they are are still hunted by landowners and cross-breeding with feral cats has also caused the population to fall.
Scottish wildcats are incredibly tough super-predators that were around long before the domestic cat had even evolved and although there are many reports of sightings, most turn out to be hybrids and not the genuine wild felines that can be seen by visitors to the deer centre.
But it’s definitely a case of ‘look, but don’t touch’, as they are completely untameable, even when reared in captivity.
Such is the concern about the future of the Scottish wildcat that a charitable organisation, the Scottish Wildcat Association, has been established dedicated to its protection and conservation.
To find out more, visit www.scottishwildcats.co.uk, or for more information about the Scottish Deer Centre visit www.tsdc.co.uk