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Fast Facts About the Shy But Wild Sand Cat After Its Decade-Long Hiatus

Aug 10, 2016 04:03 AM EDT

Cats come and go as they please, but this particular species hasn't been spotted in around a decade. If not for the recent efforts of scientists in Abu Dhabi, the world could almost forget they ever existed.

Although they look like plumper versions of house pets, this unsociable feline is a nocturnal desert creature known for being very elusive around humans. Because of their tendency to shy from humans, very little is known about the sand cat.

Learn more with these five facts on the fantastic feline.

The sand cat hid out for a decade. According to a report from New Scientist, the last time the sand cat was spotted was in 2005. It was an unconfirmed sighting. The Environment Agency -- Abu Dhabi (EAD) assistant Shakeel Ahmed decided to seek out the shy and secretive feline after years of these sort of anecdotes. He led a team of researchers in pursuit of the sand cat in the Baynouna protected area in Abu Dhabi.

Technology and bait finally captured the elusive feline. European Journal of Wildlife Research revealed that the team made use of trail camera traps to capture images of the sand cat in the area. In the period of March to December 2015, Ahmed and his fellow researchers were able to collect a total of 46 photos of the creature in its natural habitat.Three different individuals were the subjects including one confirmed male.

Sand cats like the cold. Much of the sightings occurred between midnight and very early in the morning, indicating the animal's preference for cooler temperatures.

There's plenty of prey around the desert. The New Science report added that the environment consists of sand dunes with very little vegetation. However small animals like gerbils and geckos were spotted by the camera, which suggests there is an abundance of food for the sand cats.

Population is dwindling. It is listed as near threatened oin the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.

So... What's next?

"It is clear that field research will all be extremely valuable in putting together conservations plans for the sand cats and their habitat, as well as pin-pointing those areas and their extent that may be turned into protected areas to conserve the cats," John Newby of the Sahara Conservation Fund said in New Science.

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