Sand Cat

Israel's Sand Cat Kittens Back by Popular Demand

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Since so many of you loved our story about Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan's Sand Cat kittens yesterday, we couldn't resist sharing new pictures we received this morning.  The more recent images show the kittens a bit older and with their eyes fully open! Enjoy!

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Photos by Tibor Jager

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Kittens Surprise Their Keepers at Tel Aviv Safari Park

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Rotem is a rare Sand Cat, and she lives at the Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan. After her partner, Sela, died about a year ago, keepers began searching for a young male Sand Cat who could take Sela's place. After intensive searching, a match was located at a zoo in Sweden, 3-year old Kalahari.

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4_0924_2015_08_07_014Photo Credits: Tibor Jager

The connection between the two seemed rather hesitant. After a period of getting acquainted, the zookeepers put Rotem and Kalahari together, but they weren't sure that the relationship was going in the right direction. In order to try and ensure a bond, the zookeepers decided to leave the two together in the same enclosure for the night.

Until that point in time, it wasn't customary to leave the Sand Cats together at night, in order to eliminate the possibility of tension and fights when the zookeepers weren't around. Since no violent behavior had been observed between the two since Kalahari's arrival, it was decided to leave them together day and night.

Three weeks ago, early in the morning when the zookeepers arrived at the Safari, they found three tiny kittens in a burrow in the enclosure. Rotem had given birth, and was already devotedly caring for her kittens!

During the period when Sela was Rotem's mate, the zookeepers had managed to document every time the pair mated during the day, as this took place only in the outside yard. Now, as Kalahari and Rotem remained together at night, the night matings weren't documented, so it wasn't possible to count the 60-69 days between mating and birth. Even though Rotem's stomach grew larger, the zookeepers couldn't know when she was expected to give birth.

The small, stocky Sand Cat (Felis margarita) is a species of great importance. They are classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List. There are only 200 Sand Cats in European zoos, and many attempts are being made to breed them with the hope that it will be possible to reintroduce them back to the wild.

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Sand Cat Trio Born at Zoo Brno

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A trio of Sand Cats was born in April at the Czech Republic’s Zoo Brno.  The genders of the kittens are not yet known. These petite cats weigh less than seven pounds (3.2 kg) as adults.

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858694_700541166650971_2173688889268586653_oPhoto Credit:  Zoo Brno

These cats are native to northern Africa and southwestern Asia.  They are the only wild cats living in true deserts, often far from water.  Thick fur protects their paws from the hot desert sand.  In extreme heat, they duck into burrows dug by foxes or porcupines, but they can also tolerate very cold temperatures. 

Sand Cats hunt small rodents, primarily at night.  Their hearing is extremely well developed, allowing them to detect prey underground.  Studies have shown that Sand Cats travel three to six miles (5-10 km) each night in search of prey. 

Though not currently threatened, Sand Cats live in fragile environments and are not legally protected within some countries.  They are bred in zoos as part of the European Endangered Species Programme.


Extinct in Israel, Sand Cat Kittens Emerge at Zoo Tel Aviv

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In early August, keepers at Zoo Tel Aviv Ramat-Gan were thrilled to discover that mother cat, Rotem, had given birth to four wriggly little kittens. Initially there was concern that Rotem would be unable to care for so many kittens, but she has proven to be a capable mother for her curious youngsters. Now at three weeks old, the kittens have just begun to emerge from the den to the delight of visitors.

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Specially adapted for desert life, Sand Cats can thrive in some of the world's driest areas beyond, the range of any other feline. Much like the Fennec Fox, Sand Cats sport big furry pads between their toes to dance along the hot sand and oversized ears, which act like radiators to disperse heat.

Despite these unique feline characteristics, the Sand Cat has not been able to outrun the triple threats of habitat destruction, inadvertent trapping by farmers, and predation and disease from domestic animals. Today they are extinct in the wild in Israel and on the decline throughout their native range of deserts in Asia and North Africa.

Mother Sand Cat and Her Pile of KittensPhoto credits: Tibor Jäger


Rare Sand Kitten Birth Gives Hope for Conservation

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After 63 days of gestation, a rare Sand Cat Kitten was born at Israel's Zoological Center Tel Aviv Ramat Gan - Safari. Once plentiful in numbers in the dunes of Israel, the Sand Cat has become extinct in the region. This is Safari Zoo's first successful Sand Cat birth and it is hoped this kitten will join Israel's Sand Cat Breeding Program in order to help reintroduce the species into the wild.

Three weeks ago, the kitten's mother Rotem refused to go into the night chamber at the end of the day. Keepers let her stay outside and the next night she gave birth to a tiny baby in the den in the outdoor enclosure. Keepers first saw the kitten when it poked it's tiny head and looked out from the den.

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Photo credits: Tibor Jager

Many more pics below the fold...

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Little Sand Cat Kittens Start to Explore

Earlier this month, Sweden's Parken Zoo welcomed two new Sand Cat kittens. Small and stocky, the Sand Cat's oversized ears help to dissipate heat and detect prey scurrying along the sand, much like the Fennec Fox. Watching the curious kittens exploring their enclosure can't help but make you think of their domestic cousins. Thanks to Mats Ellting for the photos.

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Photo Credits: Mats Ellting


Precious Sand Kittens at Al Ain Wildlife Park

Two sand cat kittens were born at the Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort in the United Arab Emirates. The kittens’ birth was a result of an assistive reproductive technique called in-vitro fertilization and embryo transfer. This marks the first time the procedure was successful in Sand cats. The research project is on-going and includes captive sand cat populations in the United States and Europe and is conducted in collaboration with the University of Illinois and the Cincinnati Zoo.

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Arabian Sand Cat Kittens!

Meet the Cincinnati Zoo's newest little Arabian Sand Cat kittens, who just debuted to the public today. Born on October 29th, the kittens, male "Najah" and female "Fath," currently weigh just 1lb. 12 oz. and 1 lb. 6 oz. respectively.

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The kittens' parents are a specially selected breeding pair from the Al Wabra Reserve in Qatar. Sand cats have fur on their feet to walk on hot sands and dig their own burrows to make nests and avoid the heat of the desert.