Belfast Zoo’s new Scottish wildcat couple and native species, Oscar and Ossian, provide the zoo with an excellent opportunity to support the conservation of a national species, and they have arrived just in time for Valentine’s!
Ossian, Belfast Zoo’s new Scottish wildcat female, came from the Highlands Wildlife Park in Scotland and was born in May 2019. Oscar, the zoo’s new male, came from Alladale Wilderness Reserve in Scotland and was born in April 2019. Scottish wildcats face intense pressure with numbers continuing to drop rapidly each year, and it is hoped the zoo will be able to play a role in conserving this native species, fight the threat of extinction through breeding and help Scottish wildcat numbers grow.
The main threats affecting Scottish wildcats are hybridisation, disease and accidental persecution. Hybridisation is a term used to describe the cross breeding of pure Scottish wildcats with domesticated tabby or feral cat. Crossbreeding has led to a huge decline in pure Scottish Wildcat numbers in the wild. Disease can be transferred between feral cats and the Scottish wildcats when they cross breed and can cause huge health issues, even death to the Scottish wildcat. Scottish wildcats face intense pressure from farmers, bird keepers, game keepers and other parties due to accidental persecution as they are misidentified as feral cats. The latest addition to Belfast Zoo will provide the zoo with the opportunity to educate all our visitors about Scottish Wildcats and the threats they face.
Alyn Cairns, Zoo Manager, said ‘It is a pleasure and fantastic opportunity for us to home such an iconic, native species, at Belfast Zoo. The Scottish wildcats face the threat of extinction as numbers diminish to record lows. Belfast Zoo continues to develop native species conservation efforts and with the arrival of the Scottish wildcats we hope that we can support the recovery of this iconic species. We have hopes of taking part in a new breeding programme with wildlife reserve partners in Scotland. It is hoped that the thirdgeneration of kittens from the new Scottish wildcat couple at Belfast Zoo will be released back into the wild. We would like to thank P&O ferries for sponsoring the travel of the Scottish wildcats to Belfast Zoo and look forward to hopefully seeing some adorable Scottish wildcat kittens soon!’’
For a chance to see love blossom between Oscar and Ossian, visit the zoo for a ‘purrfect’ Valentine’s Day out with your ‘otter’ half on 14 and 15 February and avail of the 2-for-1admissions offer, follow the love trail and grab a memento with zoo love bird photography offers, or if you’re single and ready to ‘Flamingle’ check out the zoo singles offer on 16 February.
For more information on the zoo’s events and Valentines weekend please visit: http://www.belfastzoo.co.uk/news-and-events/events/Events-5583.aspx.