Sand Cat

Litter of Four Elusive Sand Cat Kittens Born

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The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is delighted to announce the birth of four Sand Cat kittens. This is the inaugural birth in the Zoo’s Desert Carnivore Conservation Center, and is also the first sand cat birth at the Zoo since 2004.

The four kittens were born on March 25 to mother, Nadya, and father, Napoleon. Since their birth, the Zoo has been monitoring the kittens’ health and development through a webcam installed in their den box. On April 23, a well-baby exam was performed on the kittens, and they are progressing as expected. The two male kittens and two female kittens each weigh about 300-340 grams (approximately 10-12 ounces).

“I’m thrilled with how the kittens are developing,” said Dr. Andrea Goodnight, Head Veterinarian. “They are becoming more adventurous each day and will soon begin exploring the areas outside their den box. Sand Cat kittens are born with their eyes closed and weigh approximately one ounce at birth. At two weeks their eyes begin opening and by four weeks they have begun to walk and explore areas inside and near their den. By eight weeks they have weaned and are eating food and are independent from their mother.”

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Dr. Goodnight Head Veterinarian_The Living Desert_4.23.19Photo Credits: The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Sand Cats are native to Northern Africa and southwestern and central Asia. They have thick fur that insulates them from the cold, heat, and blowing sand. Mostly solitary animals, except during breeding, Sand Cats have an average litter of four kittens.

“This is a historic birth for us,” said RoxAnna Breitigan, Director of Animal Care at The Living Desert. “Due to their very elusive nature and excellent desert camouflage, very little is known about Sand Cats, including their populations in the wild. We are proud to be participating in species conservation efforts that support these special felines.”

The Desert Carnivore Conservation Center was completed in March 2016 with the goal of expanding The Living Desert’s focused conservation efforts for small desert carnivores, more specifically small desert cats and foxes. The center is located behind-the-scenes, allowing the animals to have an undisturbed and quite area for breeding, which comes at the recommendation of the Species Survival Plans (SSP). The SSPs are cooperatively managed programs that ensures genetic and population sustainability.

“I am very excited to share this wonderful news,” said Allen Monroe, President/CEO. “The Desert Carnivore Conservation Center gives The Living Desert an opportunity to study the unique reproductive physiology of these animals to help support wild populations.”

The Sand Cats and their kittens will remain in the behind-the scenes Desert Carnivore Conservation Center.


New Litter of Sand Cats at Tel Aviv Safari Park

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Rotem, a rare Sand Cat at the Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan, recently emerged with a new litter of kittens. The fuzzy pair, born the middle of May, are not yet named, but keepers report they will both have monikers that begin with ‘R’—like mom.

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4_13346241_10154241559287520_5963795367238701412_oPhoto Credits: Noa Toledano (Images 1,2) ; Gil Cohen-Magen/Haaretz (Images 3-6)

After Rotem’s partner, Sela, died about two years ago, keepers at the zoo 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, the then-3-year old Kalahari. This is the second litter for the new couple, since their introduction.

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. Habitat degradation is their main threat and is caused by human settlement and activity, especially livestock grazing. Their prey-base depends on having adequate vegetation. The Sand Cat may also be killed in traps, laid out by inhabitants of oases, targeting foxes and jackals or in retaliation for killing their chickens.

The Sand Cat is small with a flat, wide head, short legs and long tail. The cat reaches 24–36 cm (9.4–14.2 in) at the shoulder and weighs 1.5–3.4 kilograms (3.3–7.5 lb). Its head and body length ranges from 39 to 52 cm (15 to 20 in), with a 23.2 to 31 cm (9.1 to 12.2 in) long tail.

Sand Cats prefer flat or undulating terrain with sparse vegetation, avoiding bare sand dunes, where there is relatively little food. They can survive in temperatures ranging from −5 °C (23 °F) to 52 °C (126 °F), retreating into burrows during extreme conditions. Although they will drink when water is available, they are able to survive for months on the water in their food.

In North Africa, they occur marginally in western Morocco, including former Sahara Occidental, in Algeria, and from the rocky deserts of eastern Egypt to the Sinai Peninsula. Sightings have been reported from Tunisia, Libya, Mali and Niger. In Mauritania, they probably occur in the Adrar Mountains and the Majabat al Koubra. Spoor have been found in Senegal, Chad, and Sudan.

In central Asia, Sand Cats occur east of the Caspian Sea throughout the Karakum Desert from the Ustyurt Plateau in the northwest to the Kopet Dag Mountains in the south extending through the Kyzylkum Desert to the Syr Darya River and the northern border to Afghanistan.

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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

See more below the fold!

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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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