TEN cute wildcat kittens have been born at the Highland Wildlife Park in Aviemore as efforts continue to restore the critically endangered population.

Two litters of five - which are incredibly rare - were born to mums Tulla and Margaret in a quiet area away from visitors at the Saving Wildcats conservation breeding for release centre.

It brings the total number born in the European partnership project's first-ever breeding season to 18.

Saving Wildcats is working with national and international experts to restore Scotland's critically endangered wildcat population by breeding and releasing them into carefully selected locations in the Cairngorms National Park and the team remains hopeful for more births in the coming weeks.

An independent report written by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2019 found wildcats were "functionally extinct" in Scotland and that boosting the wild population via a carefully managed conservation breeding for release programme was the species’ last hope. 

READ MORE: £400,000 boost for bid to save endangered Scottish wildcat population

Sixteen cats were paired ahead of the breeding season in the centre: Fruin and Beanie, Droma and Arran, Cranachan and Margaret, Embo and Torr, Nell and Con, Tulla and Ordie, Oscar and Caol Ila, and Rannoch and Fearn.

Droma has had three kittens, Caol Ila also has three kittens and Torr has two kittens. 

The kittens will be sexed, microchipped, vaccinated and health checked at around nine weeks old. 

Led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland in collaboration with NatureScot, Forestry and Land Scotland, The Cairngorms National Park Authority, Norden’s Ark, and Consejería de Medio Ambiente y Ordenación del Territorio de la Junta de Andalucía, the six-year recovery project is funded with the contribution of the LIFE Programme of the European Union and the support of the Garfield Weston Foundation, The National Trust for Scotland, The People’s Trust for Endangered Species and The European Nature Trust.

Supporters can sponsor to help secure a future for Scotland’s wildcats here