Sand kittens in Morocco caught on footage | Daily Mail Online – Daily Mail


They’ve spent the last four years extensively tracking and documenting Africa’s elusive sand cats – but, it was in the middle of the night on the last night of their expedition when researchers made an ‘astonishing’ discovery.

In what’s thought to be the first-ever footage of sand cat kittens in the wild, researchers have recorded three young cats in their natural range, each estimated to be just six to eight weeks old at the time they were spotted.

These cats are known for their remarkable abilities to evade detection, traveling under the cover of darkness and never leaving behind traces of their kill.

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In what¿s thought to be the first-ever footage of sand cat kittens in the wild, researchers have recorded three young cats in their natural range, each estimated to be just six to eight weeks old at the time they were spotted

In what¿s thought to be the first-ever footage of sand cat kittens in the wild, researchers have recorded three young cats in their natural range, each estimated to be just six to eight weeks old at the time they were spotted

In what’s thought to be the first-ever footage of sand cat kittens in the wild, researchers have recorded three young cats in their natural range, each estimated to be just six to eight weeks old at the time they were spotted

THE SAND CAT

The sand cat (Felis margarita) can be found throughout northern Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and central Asia, according to Grégory Breton, Managing Director at Panthera France.

These stealthy felines are difficult to spot – they travel at dusk, night, and dawn, and camouflage perfectly with their environment.

Their fur is a sandy color, with black rings on the front legs.

The cats are also known to have quiet vocalizations, and are experts at hiding.

Even when hunting, they don’t leave behind traces of their prey, according to the researcher.

While sand cats were once listed as Near Threatened, but have since been downlisted to Least Concern.

The team, led by biologists Dr Alexander Sliwa & Grégory Breton, spotted three pairs of eyes glowing in the darkness as they drove back to camp on April 26.

The site was roughly 4 kilometers (4.5 miles) from their camp in the Moroccan Sahara – but, after discovering the rare kittens at 1:48 a.m., the researchers spent the next hour capturing photos and videos of the litter, and setting up camera traps.

‘This is likely the first sighting of sand cat kittens in the Sahara,’ the team says.

Three kittens were found hiding beneath a tuft of perennial grass.

As they filmed the litter, the team also spotted and radio-collared an adult female, who was ‘nervously roaming’ nearby.

This may have been the kittens’ mother, they say.

In the remarkable footage of the encounter, the adorable kittens can be seen up-close, revealing a detailed look at their tiny noses, wide green eyes, and enormous ears.

And, the kittens appear fearless despite suddenly being watched; at one point in the footage, one brave kitten can even be seen emerging from the bush as it notices an unsuspecting jerboa passing by.

The jerboa is a small jumping rodent, and one of the main prey of the wild North African sand cat, according to the researchers.

‘Finding sand cats (Felis margarita) in their natural range (northern Africa, across the Middle East, and southwest and central Asia) is difficult,’ Breton, Managing Director of Panthera France, wrote in a blog post.

‘They barely leave any visible pugmarks, they don’t leave behind remains of their prey, and their vocalizations are quiet.

‘They move stealthily at dusk, night, and dawn, they’re good at hiding, and their fur provides perfect camouflage when they want to vanish from observers and threats.

‘But they don’t run away.’

In the remarkable footage of the encounter, the adorable kittens can be seen up-close, revealing a detailed look at their tiny noses, wide green eyes, and enormous ears

In the remarkable footage of the encounter, the adorable kittens can be seen up-close, revealing a detailed look at their tiny noses, wide green eyes, and enormous ears

In the remarkable footage of the encounter, the adorable kittens can be seen up-close, revealing a detailed look at their tiny noses, wide green eyes, and enormous ears

After spotting the rare kittens at 1:48 a.m., the researchers spent the next hour capturing photos and videos of the litter, and setting up camera traps

After spotting the rare kittens at 1:48 a.m., the researchers spent the next hour capturing photos and videos of the litter, and setting up camera traps

The team, led by biologists Dr Alexander Sliwa & Grégory Breton, spotted three pairs of eyes glowing in the darkness as they drove back to camp on April 26

The team, led by biologists Dr Alexander Sliwa & Grégory Breton, spotted three pairs of eyes glowing in the darkness as they drove back to camp on April 26

The team, led by biologists Dr Alexander Sliwa & Grégory Breton, spotted three pairs of eyes glowing in the darkness as they drove back to camp on April 26. After spotting the rare kittens at 1:48 a.m., the researchers spent the next hour capturing photos and videos of the litter

The sand cat (Felis margarita) can be found throughout northern Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and central Asia

The sand cat (Felis margarita) can be found throughout northern Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and central Asia

The sand cat (Felis margarita) can be found throughout northern Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and central Asia

While these cats may be adorable, the researchers have issued a strong reminder that they are wild – and must be left that way.

As the footage ignites new interest in the species, the team urges the importance of protecting sand cats in their natural habitat.

‘Despite expressly stating in our video that sand cats are a wild species adapted to desert and semi-arid conditions and should not be kept or interbred (to make hybrids with domestic house cats, something that unfortunately started before our field work), some people have expressed the desire to catch or obtain one to keep them at home,’ the researchers said, after the footage received an ‘unexpected and overwhelming’ public response in the span of just two weeks.

‘We are strongly against this practice and it would lead to the direct opposite of our goal of creating awareness and protection for the species in the wild.’ 

Sand cats are known for their remarkable abilities to evade detection, traveling under the cover of darkness and never leaving behind traces of their kill

Sand cats are known for their remarkable abilities to evade detection, traveling under the cover of darkness and never leaving behind traces of their kill

Sand cats are known for their remarkable abilities to evade detection, traveling under the cover of darkness and never leaving behind traces of their kill


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