A WILDLIFE group fighting for a forest to get official protection for its wildcat population says new footage of a young kitten is proof they are still breeding.

Wildcat Haven has released footage of a young wildcat in the Clashindarroch forest, Aberdeenshire, the main stronghold for the Scottish wildcat.

The young cat, which is thought to be 14 weeks old, is 'clear evidence that the Scottish wildcat is still breeding in the wild and casts serious doubt over the governments' claims that it is functionally extinct', the group said.

Scientific research shows that the Scottish wildcat is critically endangered with as few as 35 Scottish wildcats remaining, making them 70 times rarer than the giant panda.

Director Paul O’Donoghue said: "This is an incredibly important find, the camera was set for eight weeks and this is the only glimpse we got of what is one of the rarest kittens in the world.

"Just look at perfectly ringed blunt tail and clear leg stripes which are key diagnostic features of the Scottish wildcat. This rare footage offers new hope for saving the wildcat in the wild."

The publicly owned Clashindarroc, is currently being logged by the Forestry Land Scotland (FLS) to make pulp for toilet rolls and there are plans for major windfarm development which would destroy huge areas of habitat and be disastrous for the wildcats.

Dr O’Donoghue added: "We want this kitten to be able to grow up in peace and have kittens of its own next year. It is astonishing that the biggest threat to this happening, is logging by government agencies. It is simply not acceptable. If we have found young pandas in there then it wouldn’t be logged and so why is the magnificent Scottish wildcat suffering this fate."

READ MORE: Wildcat activists call for forest to receive official protection

Local volunteer Kevin Bell is the fieldworker who set the camera that found this kitten.

He said: "It is phenomenal to see a wildcat kitten that was declared functionally extinct but we now know that they are still clinging on to survival in their forest home. It seems like the government forgot to tell the wildcat that it is supposed to be extinct."

Wildcat Haven launched a petition on Change.org to stop the logging of the Clashindarroch and make it a protected area.

The petition has now been signed by more than 827,000 people.

Living Law, a specialist environmental law firm, working for Wildcat Haven, have put the Government agency on notice that it has a statutory duty to designate the Clashindarroch as a SSSI and will launch litigation proceedings if needed.

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS), one of several new government agencies formed last year to replace Forestry Commission Scotland and Forest Enterprise Scotland, said it regarded the protection of the wildcats as being “of the highest priority,” and pointed out its forest management work was certified to international standards of best practice

See www.wildcathaven.com and the petition at www.change.org/p/scottish-government-save-the-scottish-wildcat-by-protecting-clashindarroch-forest.