Felis margarita (Loche 1858) Sand Cat
Hebrew name: חתול חולות, hatul holot
Global Threat: LR – Lower Risk
Regional Threat: CR (A1ace,B,D) – Critically Endangered.
Distribution area: There have been no recorded observations of sand cats in the northern Arava since the mid 1990s (Nature & Parks Authority wardens in the Arava: Peter Rabin, Mori Hen, Yoram Chemo, pers. comm.). There is one lone record from Nahal Sha’alav (north of Lotan) in the southern Arava from the late 1980s (Reuven Hefner, pers. comm.) and another from Nahal Kasuy (Biq’at Uvda) in 1992 (Oded Shani, pers. comm.). The Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty left most of the sandy areas in the northern and southern Arava in Jordanian territory, so it is likely the species is extinct in Israel since the late 20th century.
Historic distribution: Sand cats were not known in Israel until the late 1970s (Ilani 1979). Sightings from sandy areas in the Arava, between Hazeva and En Yahav, were reported only since the 1980s.
Typical Habitat: Large, shifting sandy areas, with small-grained sand and sparse vegetation.
Threat and Disturbance Factors: Competitive exclusion by large canids, such as wolves and foxes, that have multiplied in desert areas due to increased food availability (agriculture and garbage dumps).
Population Size Estimate: The Arava sand cat population is on the verge of extinction, or is possibly already extinct. Observations by Abbadi (1989) show that the population in the northern Arava sands was already diminished in the mid-1980s: the male home range was 16 km2 and at least 22 sand cats inhabited an area of about 100 km2 in the northern Arava (Abbadi 1992).
Fluctuations in Population Size: There have been no records of sand cats from the northern Arava in the past years, and the species has probably become extinct in Israel.
Isolation between Subpopulations: Unknown.
Necessary Steps for Species Preservation: It is doubtful whether the original natural habitat of sand cats in the Arava sands can be rehabilitated.