The North Carolina Zoo is celebrating the arrival of some adorable triplets who are winning hearts all over the country.
The zoo recently announced the birth of three newborn sand cats, one of the smallest species of felines in the world. According to a press release from the zoo, the weeks-old kittens are so small they can fit in the palm of your hand.
The adorable kittens were born to first-time mom Sahara, 3, and father Cosmo, 9. It’s their first litter together, though Cosmo has been a dad once before. The zoo says the mom and kittens are “doing well,” exploring their surroundings at the Asheboro zoo’s Desert Habitat.
The sex of the kittens is still unknown, and they don’t have names yet: the zoo announced they are going to hold a naming contest.
The kittens were bred in accordance with the Sand Cat Species Survival Plan and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which aims to maintain a healthy and genetically diverse population of sand cats to increase their numbers. There are over 50 sand cats at AZA zoos.
The sand cat is one of the smallest species of feline in the world: they only weigh between 4 and 8 pounds and they grow to just 20 inches long on average, according to the press release.
But don’t let their adorable faces and tiny stature fool you: these cats are no pets. Sand cats are ferocious predators who kill and consume prey including venomous snakes in their desert habitats. Their keen sense of hearing and digging abilities help make them expert hunters.
Native to the deserts of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Asia, sand cats are the only feline species that live exclusively in desert environments. These nocturnal cats have adapted to live in extreme climates.
While sand cats are not regarded as an endangered species, they are rare to spot in the wild due to their elusive nature, nocturnal hunting patterns and the remoteness of their habitats. Because they are hard to study, their population size is unknown, according to the North Carolina Zoo.
According to the Smithsonian Institute, sand cats are threatened by habitat loss from human development, so conservation efforts and laws protecting them from hunting have been put in place to protect the species.
These sand cats may grow up to be ferocious predators, but visitors can enjoy them while they’re still tiny palm-sized kittens: the zoo says they can currently be spotted with their mom in their zoo habitat.
What adorable newborns! Sand cats are such a fascinating and unique species — congrats on the arrival of these precious triplets!