Why are sand cats endangered animals?

Officially sand cats are not endangered. So there! The IUCN Red List categorise this small wild cat as Least Concern. This is the most positive classification under the Red List scheme. The classification has improved from Near Threatened in 2011.

IUCN Red List Categories
IUCN Red List Categories
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This does not mean that people should be complacent. Almost invariably the survivability of wild cat species living in the wild gets worse year on year because of increased human activity globally.

Also with respect to the sand cat “confirmed recordings are sparse”. This calls into question the reliability of population size assessments.

Sand Cat
Sand Cat

The good classification is justified by the IUCN Red List because:

  1. The total population of sand cats is estimated at 27,264 (how can they be so precise?) exceeds “the threshold for threatened status under criterion C”.
  2. There is “no convincing evidence to support a range-wide decline over three generations…”
  3. This cat occurs more often and is found over a larger area than as set out in one of the Red List criterion B.

Note: criteria B and C cover population size, subpopulations, numbers if mature individuals, continuing decline, fragmentation of populations, area of occupancy, extent of occurrence and location. You can look them up on the IUCN Red List website (google “criterion C red list”).

The threats to the sand cat are:

  1. Degradation and loss of habitat (this is typical for most wild cat species). This is because of increased human activity in areas where the sand lives together with their domestic animals and animals which are found near humans (e.g. foxes). There is also increased infrastructure development and human settlement on sand cat lands.
  2. Desert ecosystems are being degraded by people. This impacts the sand cat because it negatively impacts the sand cat’s prey.
  3. Loss of vegetation.
  4. Feral cats and dogs competing for prey.
  5. Roads cutting through habitat.
  6. Traps and snares intended for other animals such as the fox.
  7. Pet trade. It seems that some unscrupulous traders think that they make nice pets.
  8. Stuck in fences.
  9. Killed by indiscriminate poisoning.
  10. Shot by hunters.

Latin scientific name: Felis margarita




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