Sand Cat (Felis margarita) - Wiki
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[Photo] Sand Cat (Felis margarita) taken at zoo. Author: DocTaxon. Date: 3rd of July, 2002. License: public domain.
The Sand Cat (Felis margarita) is a small wild cat distributed over African and Asian deserts. The name "Desert Cat" is reserved for a subspecies of the true Wildcat, but it would be appropriate for this species. It lives in those arid areas that are too hot and dry even for the Desert Cat: the Sahara, the Arabian Desert, and the deserts of Iran and Pakistan. It lives for about 13 years in captivity.
The length averages almost 50 cm (20 in), plus a 30 cm (12 in) tail, and the weight averages about at 2.7 kg (6 lbs). The head is conspicuously broad; the ears are large and pointed. The colour of the fur is a sandy yellow, with pallid bars, which are sometimes hardly visible. Generally the bars are more visible in the African subspecies. The mucosa of eyelids is a striking black. The fur on the tip of the tail is black. The paws are covered with long hairs in order to protect the skin against the hot sand. The Sand Cat can survive in temperatures ranging from -5 to +52 degrees Celsius.
In the daytime the Sand Cat hides under rocks. At night it hunts for rodents, lizards and insects. Since the Sand Cat obtains all the water it needs from eating its prey, it stays mostly far away from watering points. Sand cats congregate only for mating so numbering them is a difficult task. It seems however that its number has been declining in the Arabian desert following a rarefaction of its prey. In 2007, the first four kittens born in captivity are being raised at the Al Ain Zoo in the United Arab Emirates as an effort to preserve the local fauna.
There are six subspecies:
Felis margarita margarita, Sahara
Felis margarita airensis
Felis margarita harrisoni, Arabia
Felis margarita meinertzhageni
Felis margarita thinobia, Iran
Felis margarita scheffeli, (Pakistan Sand Cat) Pakistan
Felis margarita thinobia is sometimes regarded as a separate species; Felis margarita scheffeli is listed by CITES as endangered, although IUCN only lists it as 'near threatened' as of 2001.
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