In vitro fertilization and embryo transfer procedures have produced the first sand cat kittens born by this method. The Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort has reported the birth of two healthy kittens. This is the first phase of a program called Project Sand Cat. While one of the kittens has died since the birth in mid-December, it is the knowledge gained from the experience that makes the kitten's life historic.
The Arabian sand cat is itself not an endangered species, currently considered "near threatened." The importance of this procedure to conservation efforts, however, is immeasurable. Now that this method has been proven successful in producing healthy sand cat kittens, bigger plans can be made. The goal of this undertaking is to one day use in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer to birth more endangered species, such as the Arabian leopard.
Sand cats are most notable for their ability to withstand desert conditions. They have learned to burrow during the day to hide from the sun's heat. They also do not need to visit places where animals congregate for water, where predators may lurk. Instead, they obtain all necessary water from their food. The sand cats are carnivores, hunting mostly at night for rodents, lizards and birds. They are found in the Sahara, the Arabian Desert, and the deserts of Iran and Pakistan.