The Sand Cat Conservation Program
The Sand Cat (Felis margarita) was found in Israel until the mid-1990's, when it became extinct here following the territorial exchange between Israel and Jordan as part of the peace treaty. It was discovered only a decade prior to its extinction from Israel. During that decade, the Sand Cat population declined steadily due to the expansion of human settlement and agriculture, as well as predatory and competing species. The species is threatened throughout its range. As part of a breeding and conservation initiative, the Biblical Zoo built an acclimatization enclosure at Kibbutz Lotan's Bird Sanctuary in the Arava Desert. After an acclimatization period, the first individuals were released into the wild. The tracking of the animals after their release was conducted by the Creative Ecology staff at Kibbutz Lotan and by Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority (INNPPA) rangers.
Ultimately this reintroduction program was unsuccessful as the released individuals did not survive in the wild. This result did, however, highlight the challenges facing sand-dune habitats in Southern Israel. Without a comprehensive program for the conservation of these habitats, many other species of mammals, reptiles, rodents and birds that live there will simply vanish!