A wildcat kitten observes her new home from the safety of a cubby hole.
Credit: Highland Wildlife Park
The Highland Wildlife Park in Inverness-shire has welcomed Merida and Brave, two-month-old Scottish wildcat kitten twins.
The kittens were born on the April 8 and have just been sexed by their keepers, showing that one is a male and the other female. The brother and sister are already pretty adventurous, tumbling around with each other and practicing their pouncing.
"It is an exciting time for the Highland Wildlife Park, as we welcomed the arrival of our twin Scottish wildcat kittens, meaning we now have six Scottish wildcats in total," said Una Richardson, head keeper at the Highland Wildlife Park.
The pair were named for the new animated film "Brave," set in mythical Scotland. The movie includes many historic and current Scottish native species, so the zoo though the names were particularly appropriate for the pair.
Merida in particular seems to share more than just a name with the film's main character as she has quite an adventurous and feisty personality, the park said in a statement. The kittens are certainly keeping proud parents, five-year-old mom Seasaidh and eight-year-old dad Hamish, busy.
"Twins 'Brave' and 'Merida,' have become quite bold and are often seen exploring their enclosure and running along an overhead walkway. We think these little kittens are well suited to their names," Richardson said in a statement. "As brother and sister they love nothing more than to play with each other, although I would say our male kitten is definitely the bossier twin."
Scottish wildcats, also known as Highland tigers, are one of Britain's rarest animals with as few as 400 thought to be left in the UK, mainly in the Scottish Highlands. These felines at first glance could be mistaken for a feral domestic cat, although they have several characteristics unique to wildcats. Wildcats have wider heads, distinctive striped coats and blunt bushy tails.
"As there are thought to be less than 400 Scottish wildcats left in the Highlands, these cats are incredibly rare and endangered so this is a huge milestone for this species and the park," Richardson said. "Merida and Brave are the latest kittens of successful breeding pair Seasaidh and Hamish, the kittens will play a vital role in the conservation of this historic Scottish species along with increasing visitor awareness of the problems facing this most iconic Scottish animal."