Sand cats are surprisingly small, burrowing hunters that make their home in the deserts of southwest Asia and northern Africa. Weighing 4 to 8 lbs. in adulthood, these furry mammals have survived the extreme temperatures of the desert for centuries, but conservationists fear that the population of this species has risen to "near threatened." With this new status, many are concerned with what is being done to protect the sand cat.
International Trade Agreements
Capturing the sand cat for use in the exotic animal trade is one of the primary reasons for the species being listed as threatened. To combat this, international trade agreements have been put in place to restrict the trade of the sand cat. The agreement also restricts the trade of any products created from the sand cat.
Sand cats are small and not at all dangerous, which makes this species an easy target for those participating in the illegal exotic animal trade. Sport hunters and poachers participate in this illegal fur trading. Because of this, hunting of the sand cat has been prohibited in several countries, including Niger, Iran, Pakistan, Algeria, Israel, Tunisia, Kazakhstan and Mauritania.
Cooperative Breeding Programs
Several zoos in the United States are participating in cooperative breeding programs, such as the SSPs (Species Survival Plans), which encourage and monitor breeding and offspring. Zoos participating in these programs regularly loan other participating zoos animals for breeding and keep well documented genealogy files to ensure that species are bred with proper mates and that the animals are not over-bred.
In an ancient Muslim story, the prophet Muhammad was described as having traveled with his daughter across the desert on foot. The story describes animal companions, which are believed to be sand cats, accompanying them throughout their journey. This ancient story is believed to be primarily responsible for sand cats being undisturbed by those of Muslim faith.