Rare Sand Kittens Born in Israel After Years of Rumored Extinction

Category: Society / Aug 14, 2012 10:23AM EDT

The workers of a Safari Park near Tel Aviv were overjoyed on Tuesday (August 14) as they displayed the open-air zoo's recent additions: four rare sand kittens, considered extinct in Israel, who were born just three weeks ago.

The kittens' mother, Rotem, was brought from Germany, and gave birth to the  first Israeli zoo-born sand kitten a year ago.

Zoo workers said they were surprised by the number of kittens born this time and were proud that Rotem was able to take care of them all.

"We are very excited because Sand Cat is an extinct species in Israel, although in the world it's not extinct, it's nearly threatened. Buy here in Israel it has been extinct because it was pushed away from the sand by other mammals," said the zoo's zoological information coordinator, Keren Or.

The Safari Park is taking part in a European breeding program for Sand Cats.

"Sand Cats in our zoo are a part of an international breeding programme, a European breeding programme. And once the kittens are old enough to leave their family, they will be transferred to other zoos to start couples or pairs, to start their own families in other zoos and keep on the reproduction of this endangered cat," she said.

Sand cats mainly exist in the deserts of Asia and Africa. The Sand cat is the only species of feline to truly live in a desert environment.