Scientists Spot Rare Arabian Sand Cat for the First Time Since 2005

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Cats are elusive creatures, but there's one species in particular that's so mysterious, even biologists don't know much about it: the sand cat. Turns out, it can be found if the pursuer is willing to do a bit of stalking.

According to New Scientist, in 2015, Shakeel Ahmed—an assistant scientist with the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD)—set out with a team on a mission to find the storied Arabian sand cat (Felis margarita harrisoni). The smallest of all wild cats, subspecies of F. margarita are found in desert regions from North Africa to Central Asia. After setting five baited camera traps for several months in 2015, Ahmed managed to snap rare photos of the species. These are the first sightings of the desert cat in 10 years. 

According to research published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research, the crew captured 46 images of wildlife over the course of 278 nights in the Baynouna region of Abu Dhabi. They later confirmed that 12 of the images featured three different cats: two females and a male. Most of the sightings occurred between midnight and 6 a.m., suggesting that the cats prefer the cooler hours of the night. Thirty-nine percent were during a full moon. The other animals photographed, New Scientist reports, include geckos and skinks—food to a sand cat. 

New Scientist notes that because the cats are not seen often, no one really knows how the species is doing. John Newby of the Sahara Conservation Fund told the publication: "Scientists need to be doing more research on how the sand cats live in order to create a suitable protected area."

[h/t New Scientist]

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