These cats have remained under the radar — until meow.
Three wild sand kittens were caught on video in their natural habitat, a rarity considering how elusive the species is.
Researchers say this is the first video of sand cats in the wild ever recorded.
“Finding these kittens was astonishing,” Gregory Breton of wild cat conservation Panthera wrote in a blog. “Three pairs of eyes gleamed back... They belonged to young sand cats, yellowish, small wild cats with broader faces and larger ears than domestic cats.”
Breton explained they had been on the expedition to research wild sand cats for nine days before spotting the trio.
“Finding sand cats in their natural range is difficult,” he wrote. “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.”
Breton, who’s previous interactions with the species were in captivity, continued to explain the sand cats’ natural habitat is in a harsh environment, making it difficult for researchers to observe them.
He has been searching for the cats in the Sahara for several years and this is the first time he’s been able to track them down.
Panthera, a non-profit dedicated to wild cats conservation, now plans to use the research obtained to track the cats’ natural reproduction cycles and the way they travel.