They may be four tiny kittens, but they are a big development for Israel’s wildlife. Four sand cats, considered extinct in Israel, were born three weeks ago at the Ramat Gan Safari near Tel Aviv. The sand cat (Felis margarita) has been listed as a ‘threatened species’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The international family consists of mother Rotem from Germany, father Sela from Poland and of course the four youngsters born in Israel. Sand cats are true desert cats that have a high mortality rate among newborns in captivity. But at three weeks these kittens are doing fine mainly thanks to Rotem.
‘Sand cat is an extinct species in Israel, although in the world it’s not extinct, it’s nearly threatened,’ said Keren Or, Zoological Information Coordinator in Ramat Gan Safari Park. ‘But here in Israel it has been extinct because it was pushed away from the sand by other mammals.’
The zoo is taking part in European program for breeding sand cats. Like some other desert animals, sand cats are capable of surviving without drinking - they obtain all the water they need through their food. They prefer hunting at night - usually rodents, and occasionally hares, birds and reptiles.