Rarely spotted Arabian sand cat photographed in Abu Dhabi

Written by on August 15, 2016 in Rare Critters - No comments

The Arabian sand cat, the only feline known to inhabit a true desert, is very rarely seen by humans.

But now the European Journal of Wildlife Research reports confirmed sightings of Felis margarita harrisoni using trail camera traps set up in Baynouna Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates. It’s a first in more than a decade.

Forty-six photographs of the elusive cats were snapped during 278 trap nights from March to December last year.

The traps, set up by the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and the Al Ain Zoo, identified three individual cats and one was a confirmed male.

The majority – 80 per cent – of the sightings took place at night, between midnight and 6 a.m. And, a full 39 per cent were recorded during the full moon phase.

Arabian sand cat captured in Baynouna protected area in November 2015/

Arabian sand cat captured in Nov. 2015/European Journal of Wildlife Research

“These are the first confirmed sightings of the presence of Arabian sand cat in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi Emirate after an unconfirmed sighting reported in 2005,” the researchers found.

The World Conservation Union’s red list considers the species “near threatened” as habitat destruction and lack of available prey threatens the future of the 10,000 cats that are left. Though nobody really knows how many cats are left or the real nature of their population decline.

One thing is abundantly clear, however. They are adorable.

Male Arabian sand cat part of the breeding program at the Al Ain Zoo/Facebook

Male Arabian sand cat part of the breeding program at the Al Ain Zoo/Facebook

They may be cute, but you probably wouldn’t want to have them warming your lap.

Arabian sand cats take a cuddle break. Environment Agency Abu Dhabi/Facebook

Arabian sand cats take a cuddle break. Environment Agency Abu Dhabi/Facebook

Main photo Environment Agency Abu Dhabi/Facebook

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Recovering newspaper reporter.

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