The Zoological Center of Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan in Israel is home to the lovely and rare adult female sand cat shown above, named Rotem. After Rotem's partner Sela died approximately a year ago, a worldwide search was launched by zoo staff to find another mate for her. Rotem's match, three-year-old male Kalahari, was found in Sweden.
Despite the fact that, at first, male and female sand cats aren't typically left unsupervised in the same enclosure due to possible fighting, when a friendship looked likely between Kalahari and Rotem, the zoo staff decided to let them live together. It was a decision that proved fruitful for all.
Three weeks ago, the zookeepers arrived at the Safari to find three tiny kittens in a burrow in the enclosure. Rotem had already bonded with and was actively caring for her babies. Ever since they were born, the kittens have remained close to their mother. Until recently, Rotem had hidden them under her body; they are just now getting a peek at their new world.
Any sand cat births worldwide are cause for conservationists to celebrate, as the species is classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List. Only 200 sand cats exist in European zoos, and constant attempts are made to increase their numbers.
Sand cats are native to the border between Israel and Jordan and the area further east. Additional subspecies can be found in North Africa and Saudi Arabia.
See more gorgeous pictures of Rotem and Kalahari's new family at Zooborns.
Images: Tibor Jager