The sand cat is the only cat found primarily in true desert. Native to deserts in northern Africa and southwest and central Asia, the sand cat has evolved to survive in such a harsh climate and, says the site ZooBorns, can thrive in far drier environments than any other feline. Like the Fennec Fox, Sand Cats have “big furry pads between their toes to dance along the hot sand and oversized ears, which act like radiators to disperse heat.”
Since 2008, the sand cat has been listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN due to concerns about potential low population size and decline. The degradation of desert ecosystems has led to a decline in its food source of small mammals; the IUCN notes that the loss of the sand cat’s habitat could result in its population declining by 30 percent. Inadvertent trapping by farmers and disease from domestic animals have also contributed to a decline in the sand cat population and the animals are now extinct in Israel.
Happily, in early August, four rare sand cat kitten were born in Israel’s Zoological Center Tel Aviv Ramat Gan – Safari to Rotem, a sand cat who was brought from Germany. As ZooBorns notes, the kittens were the first successful sand cat births at the zoo. It is hoped that they will become part of Israel’s Sand Cat Breeding Program, whose aim is to reintroduce the sand cat into the wild.
Here’s a video of the kittens, who are quite adorable.
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Photo by Squeezyboy