In order to figure out how to help sand cats you have to know what the threats are to the survival in the wild of this small wild cat. These are listed on the IUCN Red List website but sadly the latest information is almost 6 years old which tells me that the people who should know what is happening don’t care enough and if they don’t care enough neither do the governments of the countries in which the wild cat species lives.
However, that said, the threats are listed as: residential and commercial development, hunting and trapping, droughts, livestock farming and ranching, invasive non-native species and diseases and general human activities of various kinds. I’ll focus on the people problems because it these that people can do something about relatively quickly.
It seems to me that, as usual, the greatest threat comes from human activities some of which degrades the sand cat’s habitat. For example, fencing due to farming and human settlements. Where there are humans there are domestic animals which kill sand cats. Infrastructure development harms habitat.
Drought due to climate change harms the prey of the sand cat which makes survival harder. Wars and political strife harms the sand cat by harming its habitat. Traps are set by people to kill foxes and wolves. These also kill sand cats. Local people sometimes trap sand cats for pets. Farmers’ shepherd dogs sometimes kill sand cats. Sand cats are also poisoned by indiscriminately put down poisons. In Saudi Arabia sand cats are sometimes shot for sport. All are human generated threats.
How can we help sand cats?
Let’s be clear, the task is very hard because you have to generate interest in the politicians who govern the countries where the sand cat lives. People living in these countries are better placed to start a campaign to lobby their national and local governments to focus more on sand cat conservation to take steps to protect the cat.
Farmers can be educated, for instance, to stop indiscriminate poisoning and trapping. Farmers can be compensated for loss of livestock instead under an insurance scheme. Developments should be sensitive to the sand cat’s habitat so that it is undisturbed. In other words there should be tightly controlled planning regulations which take into account wildlife conservation. Reserves or national parks could be created where wildlife is protected.
You’ll need the advice and help of a conservationist. Social media can help too. For instance there is the Sand Cat Sahara Research Team on Facebook. Although to be honest I am unimpressed with them.
You might start your own social media campaign. One of the best conservation organisations is The Snow Leopard Trust. They have some innovative methods to save the snow leopard. You might learn from them. It is essential that you work with the local people to make them more aware of the asset – the sand cat – that they have on their doorstep and to protect it. This is about education and training.
If the local people are prepared to live in harmony with the sand cat it will force change from the bottom to the top (the countries rulers). It is probably easier to force change in this way than to get politicians to change their attitude to conservation. Although you will need the cooperation of local government to instigate educational programmes.
Ultimately there needs to be an attitude in these countries which shows a concern for conservation combined with legal structures, procedures and penalties which respects and protects wildlife. It is profound and fundamental which it is why it is hard to have an impact.
SOME MORE PAGES ON THE ATTRACTIVE SAND CAT: