TWO critically endangered wildcat kittens have been born at a Scottish zoo.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Edinburgh Zoo will be asking the public for help to think of names for the kittens in the coming weeks.

Wildcats, also dubbed the Highland Tiger, are one of Scotland's rarest and most threatened mammals.

Historically, Scottish wildcats lived across Britain, but they are now only found in the Scottish Highlands.

Research from 2014 suggested there were just 100-300 of the cats left in the wild. Scottish Wildcat Action has since conducted another study, the results of which "are still being analysed", according to its website.

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The campaign group say the "priority areas" for the animals are Morvern, Strathpeffer, Northern Strathspey, Angus Glens, and Strathbogie.

The biggest threats to the animals are disease, accidental persecution by people trying to control feral cats, and crossbreeding with domestic cats. 

Scottish Wildcat Action says this hybridisation is the number one factor affecting wildcats' survival, adding: "A healthy population of wildcats can cope with some hybridisation on its fringes. However, because numbers of wildcats are now so low, and there are many times more domestic/feral cats, our native cat will soon be wiped out by this genetic introgression."

Commenting on the birth of the kittens, Alison Maclean, carnivore team leader at Edinburgh Zoo, said: "We are thrilled to have welcomed the birth of two wildcat kittens in September, to mum Caol Ila and dad Talisker.

"The youngsters are doing well and we will be asking for the public's help to name them in the coming weeks."

Wildcat will have one litter of around 2-4 kittens a year (unless the first is lost). Feral cats will have larger litters with more regularity.

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RZSS is leading a new partnership project, Saving Wildcats, based at the charity's second site, Highland Wildlife Park.

The conservation breeding and release of wildcats is being carried out by the Saving Wildcats partnership led by RZSS in collaboration with NatureScot, Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS), The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), Norden's Ark and Junta de Andalucia.

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