A cat once considered extinct in Israel is now making a comeback.
Rotem, a sand cat at the Ramat Gan Safari, gave birth three weeks ago to three kittens who were seen frolicking beside their mother Tuesday to the delight of visitors at the park.
Workers at the Safari were surprised by the birth, as Rotem lost her partner Sela one year ago, and the relationship between her and her new Swedish-born companion, Kalahri, was well — all claws.
Even though the two felines seemed disinterested in each other, caretakers decided to give love a chance. Rotem and Kalahri were left in the same room to spend nights together, during which they were unobserved; workers at the zoo had no idea if mating was taking place.
Caretakers later discerned that Rotem was pregnant, but had no way of calculating a date for the birth. The trio popped out three weeks ago.
Sand cats, the only cats able to survive in total deserts, used to roam the Holy Land in the Jordan River valley and surrounding areas in Africa and Asia, but today exist mostly in captivity. They have been listed as near-threatened because of their small population worldwide and declining numbers — only 200 survive in European zoos. Efforts are being made for conservation.