After four patient years of extensive research, sand cat kittens have finally been caught on camera for the very first time.

The cute kittens, aged between six to eight weeks old, were spotted by a big cat organization called Panthera, who spent around an hour taking images of the rare animals before radio-collaring an adult female believed to be their mother. The team, headed by biologists Grégory Breton and Dr. Alexander Sliwa, noticed the adorable kittens as they drove back to camp in the Moroccan Sahara in April this year. Spotting three pairs of eyes glowing in the darkness, the researchers couldn’t believe their luck when they realized what they’d found.

“Finding these tiny kittens was astonishing,” said Breton, managing director of Panthera France. “We believe this was the first time researchers ever documented wild sand cat kittens in their African range.”

Sand cats are the only species of wild cats that live exclusively in the desert. These tiny cats can be found in North Africa, The Middle East, and Central Asia, but as the research team discovered, actually locating them is incredibly difficult due to their extraordinary ability to evade detection. Their sand-colored coats make them hard to spot, and their furry paws mean they don’t leave any footprints in the sand. They only travel under cover of darkness and they always clear up after themselves, so the fact that the team was able to capture the amazing footage below is nothing short of remarkable. Scroll down to see for yourself. And no, before you ask, you cannot keep these adorable animals as pets.

More info: Panthera


Image credits: Grégory Breton

Image credits: Grégory Breton

Image credits: Grégory Breton

 

Image credits: Grégory Breton

Image credits: Grégory Breton

 

Image credits: Grégory Breton

Image credits: Grégory Breton

Image credits: Grégory Breton

Image credits: Grégory Breton