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Antee

Western Sahara - In search for Sand cat

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Antee

This is a short trip report from a seldom visit corner of Africa. The area is rather known amongst birders and kitesurfers but mammalwatchers are more rare.

 

I was here in the very end of December 2017 and it´s about time to give this wonderful area some time in the light. Start and end in Dakhla.
 

3 nights along the Aousserd road in Western Sahara with the main goal of catching up my 14th species of cat, namely Sand cat. 
I also tried an off road area along the old Paris-dakar pist. Mainly for the chance of seeing Dorca gazelle but also to mix it up a little and see more of the area.

 
I spent 3 days/nights for this. First night off road in a tent and then the other two in a house in Aousserd. A huge advantage to stay in Aousserd close to the Sand cat area. 

 

No problem with the military/police. They checked my passport in Aousserd which is a military base, and was questioned why we were there. Then no problem at all.  
Excursions during daytime in this fantastic beautiful area and then spotlighting a couple of hours until midnight was our agenda.  

 

My trip was organized very good by Chris Townend on http://www.wisebirding.co.uk/ and are you curious about the area, please contact him and I am sure you will be satisfied. 
Here you can see the areas I did spotlighting. I had a choice between doing the red line or the green and I chose the latter. 

 

Dakhla_plan_27122017.jpg.117d5c5b07b2ff09b3e70ff50d17edb4.jpg
 

 

Please note that it is impossible and dangerous to go along the green line off road on your own as it is minated area and you must have knowledge where to go.  

 

I managed to see 7 species and this was what I saw. 

 

1. African Savanna hare --- 7 of them on my first night off road during spotlighting. Very abundant in this area. Not a single one along the Aousserd road.

 

863753768_AfricanSavannahare4.jpg.8fa3254f6354a5b45dccfe34f4a17a36.jpg

 
 
2. Ruppels fox --- 7-8 individuals in total is my appreciation. Present in both areas. Very, very skittish and they all ran away from me and my camera. Therefore sometimes hard to identify from Fennecs. All of them during spotlighting. 
 
3. Fennec fox --- 3-4 individuals in total is my appreciation. Identified only along the road. Like the Ruppels very skittish and hard to come close. All of them during spotlighting. 
 
4. African golden wolf --- One in off road area seen very well during spotlighting. Another eyeshine more than likely from this species in the same area. Well, it´s a debate if it is a Golden jackal or not. So do your own conclusion.

 

414135792_AfricanGoldenwolf4.jpg.6c8dee120d8a1fdb437e3db4df6b137b.jpg

 

 

1334152489_AfricanGoldenwolf6.jpg.13a9e3c9c1af773a1cac0b139b9b1ba6.jpg  
 
5. Desert hedgehog --- One along the road just minutes before quit spotlighting on my last night.  

 

466409454_Deserthedgehog.jpg.c2da40f3111ea9fba1b402f9658ebd8f.jpg
 
6. Lesser Egyptian Jerboa --- Totally 7 individuals seeing on all three nights.

 

1935689363_Lesseregyptianjerboa2.jpg.7743170c74dc6611e86f2abe75bff98a.jpg
 
7. Sand cat --- Highlight and the whole goal of the trip! A fantastic sighting around 21:30  on my last night. Not a single eyeshine from anything for 1½ hour and Just when I started to think when to come back for it… then BOOOM, just beside the road 50km from Aousserd. It stayed perfectly visible for around one minute before it decided that enough is enough and the cat ran away. We followed it a bit off road and had some more glimpse of this elusive cat thru bushes when it tried to hide. My 14th species of cat was now a fact!  

 

881884062_Sandcat.jpg.df5e4affaf97a9a9dbc48986a23afdc5.jpg
 

 

487054138_Sandcat5.jpg.01969f38a1af17ca27a72f03ff99d3d3.jpg

 


* Domestic cats --- Be aware of domestic cats. I found 4 of them during spotlighting as far away as 45km from Aousserd. Very irritating to spend time to identify possible cat-eyeshine when it turned out to be domestic cats. 
 
Stuff I missed 
Dorca gazelle --- Well, no “Dorca´s” for me. They are in very low numbers in the off road area but they use to see them from time to time. 
Saharan striped polecat --- Not lucky with them. 
Not a single Gerbil which was very weird. A few different species use to be very abundant but nothing. Cold weather could be the answer with down to 12C (53F) in the night. 

 

This is the typical area where to search for Sand cat. 

 

Sahara7.jpg.68bc4253ff92004e0f87a5afbe559adb.jpg

 

 

What is Sahara without some Dromedaries...

 

 

Sahara3.jpg.31bc03d597e5f282ae863778680e5698.jpg

 

 

Another desert dweller who find the desert his home - Sudan mastigure.

Massive creature.

 

1072624280_Sudanmastigure4.jpg.b4727d788820a4565f8aaf7fc590ccd3.jpg

 

 

The first night with some nomadic people. I stayed in the small tent. We even had a guarding sheep :) 

 

20171228_075205.jpg.b41e29b742f2c3f6801c39962f14b588.jpg

 

 

The other nights in Aousserd. 

It´s not really a metropolis... 

Very isolated and 200km from everything.

 

20171230_093707.jpg.1b35e7f5f946e6d52a6a229b202f6ec2.jpg

 

 

The Saharan desert is very beautiful. So much more than only sand...

 

20171229_111653.jpg.9969463588398e6df6e581def3ca068e.jpg

 

 

20171229_143553.jpg.227586fddd8d6c6130d6158a4ade2706.jpg

 

 

Some noteable birds along the way...

 

Lanner Falcon

 

592195212_Lannerfalcon3.jpg.53f974c7fe506b60cd8c9987a0586237.jpg

 

 

Little Owl

 

416322355_Littleowl3.jpg.da0e20d829b3613e0a458f910b515031.jpg

 

 

Desert lark

 

2067968344_Desertlark.jpg.1595e0951e88941eaec8123a266938bd.jpg

 

 

White crowned wheatear

 

789392089_Whitecrownedwheatear2.jpg.c2173b4dc8c06d35256cf70b905737e0.jpg

 

 

Black kite 

 

75498724_Blackkite3.jpg.f2adcef17ac1cc09be9cae4206ee5ebe.jpg

 

 

Griffon vulture

A rare visitor in Western sahara. This individual had stayed a week outside Dakhla. Lost from Spain.

 

887785923_Griffonvulture4.jpg.601e66a2b92d9993931a747d1315d80f.jpg

 

 

658160685_Griffonvulture7.jpg.a0076845827a752f65617a19bbc2b762.jpg

 

 

Dakhla is a nice city by the Atlantic ocean and you could easily enjoy a day or two here.

 

20171227_082209.jpg.ea72bfca71d946d4f7b5103474519145.jpg

 

Well, this was a summary of a short trip easily done for at least all of us who lives in Europe.

Now the only cat left in Africa is the African Golden cat... 

 

Cheers! 

Edited by Antee

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ForWildlife

Fantastic! You have done some really interesting trips! Is it your goal to see all cats in the wild?

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michael-ibk

Congratulations on finding the Sand Cat, well done. Any plans for Golden Cat? That one must be a real toughie!

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Kitsafari

awesome you saw the stunning sand cat! 

may I ask - who was your guide and was communication an issue? and where did you travel through - the Morocco end?

 

 

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Antee
16 hours ago, ForWildlife said:

Fantastic! You have done some really interesting trips! Is it your goal to see all cats in the wild?


@ForWildlife 

 

Yes, I am on a mission. A life long mission :) 

 

I know it will be impossible to have them all but around 30 would be realistic.

 

I have 4 more trip reports to post in here after sort out my photos and there will be more cats :) 

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Antee
14 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Congratulations on finding the Sand Cat, well done. Any plans for Golden Cat? That one must be a real toughie!

 

@michael-ibk

 

Yes there is plans. Not in very near future but it will be a try in Gabon.

Tough is only the first name. 

 

This is one of the cats that I don´t really expect to find during my project. But you never know... 

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ForWildlife

I'm guessing African golden cat, bay cat, Andean cat will be some of the toughest. Not sure about Asiatic golden cat, some of the American smaller cats (guigna, margay, oncilla, colocolo), clouded leopard (I know Sunda clouded leopard is do-able on Borneo), fishing cat and marbled cat.

I'd love to see all in the wild! Looking forward to more reports.

 

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Antee
2 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

awesome you saw the stunning sand cat! 

may I ask - who was your guide and was communication an issue? and where did you travel through - the Morocco end?

 

 

 

@Kitsafari

 

Yes, It´s an awesome cat! 

 

My guide was Nico from company Dakhla Rovers. We did spotlighting together. We also had a driver. 

Communication not an issue. He is Italian.

Communication in Dakhla not an issue either. Hotel staff speak English.

 

I flew to Dahkla with connection in Casablanca with Royal Air Maroc. Very straight forward.

 

 

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Antee
4 minutes ago, ForWildlife said:

I'm guessing African golden cat, bay cat, Andean cat will be some of the toughest. Not sure about Asiatic golden cat, some of the American smaller cats (guigna, margay, oncilla, colocolo), clouded leopard (I know Sunda clouded leopard is do-able on Borneo), fishing cat and marbled cat.

I'd love to see all in the wild! Looking forward to more reports.

 

 

@ForWildlife

 

Fishing cat and Marbled cat is doable. I have seen one of them already and there will be a trip report here. 

Margay not that hard either. 

I think Andean cat would be possible in a couple of years as there is ongoing research at the moment which will pinpoint them much more than today. 

 

The other ones are though, yes. No doubt. 

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michael-ibk
6 hours ago, Antee said:

Yes there is plans. Not in very near future but it will be a try in Gabon.

Tough is only the first name. 

 

Interesting, in which area of Gabon? I will do a recce trip for you there next July/August.

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ForWildlife

How about flat-headed cat?

I think with Andean cat the problem is is that there simply isn't much known about them. Recently they've been recorded at much lower elevations in Patagonia, so you might be right that they will become easier in the near future. Just like snow leopards and clouded leopards have become easier to see.

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Sangeeta

Very very cool sightings, @Antee You're making desert lovers out of many of us!

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optig

@Antee I just love your report. I'd just love to visit the Chadian desert in combination with another trip to Zakouma. I know that it would simply be an awe inspiring experience. The scenery,birding would be awesome and the wildlife would also be fascinating. 

Edited by optig

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wilddog

You got me completely confused there @optig. I thought you were suggesting that this TR was about the Chadian desert rather than Morocco. But I realise now it is about your own trip planning.

 

Fascinating report of a rarely visited area @Antee thank you and good luck with your lifetime cat goal.

 

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xelas

@Antee you are on the mission indeed. Sometimes one sees a cat that at first does not means much but on further research, it might be a rare sighting. Not every cat is a domestic cat, and not every wild cat is a tiger, should be a lesson for me. BTW have you already scratched Ring-tailed Cat off your list?

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kittykat23uk
4 hours ago, xelas said:

@Antee you are on the mission indeed.  BTW have you already scratched Ring-tailed Cat off your list?

 

I don't think that counts...

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Antee
On 8/12/2018 at 6:28 PM, michael-ibk said:

 

Interesting, in which area of Gabon? I will do a recce trip for you there next July/August.


@michael-ibk Very nice! 
How about you track one down for me and then call me in? :) 

Edited by Antee

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Antee
On 8/12/2018 at 6:29 PM, ForWildlife said:

How about flat-headed cat?

I think with Andean cat the problem is is that there simply isn't much known about them. Recently they've been recorded at much lower elevations in Patagonia, so you might be right that they will become easier in the near future. Just like snow leopards and clouded leopards have become easier to see.

 

@ForWildlife Oh, I have tried 2 times for Flat headed cats but failed. Tried to get information from some researchers this summer for another location than Kinabatangan river, Sabah, Borneo as I am sick of this place... 
But it still seems it´s the best place for them. I wanted to try for them at one spot in Sarawak but my researcher contact wasn´t completely into that idea :) 

I guess I have to go back a third time to Kinabatangan. 

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Antee
11 hours ago, wilddog said:

You got me completely confused there @optig. I thought you were suggesting that this TR was about the Chadian desert rather than Morocco. But I realise now it is about your own trip planning.

 

Fascinating report of a rarely visited area @Antee thank you and good luck with your lifetime cat goal.

 

 

@wilddog Thanx alot. May need it :) 

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Antee
6 hours ago, xelas said:

@Antee you are on the mission indeed. Sometimes one sees a cat that at first does not means much but on further research, it might be a rare sighting. Not every cat is a domestic cat, and not every wild cat is a tiger, should be a lesson for me. BTW have you already scratched Ring-tailed Cat off your list?

 

@xelas Well, thats a Racoon, not a cat :) 

So no, haven´t ticked it off.

Edited by Antee

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xelas

You see, I am not a cat person myself :rolleyes:! Indeed a racoon was my first reaction when I saw the (smart phone taken) photo. Supposedly it is a rare sight in Costa Rica. @Antee good luck with your mission!

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kittykat23uk

Congratulations on the sand cat @Antee . I still need that one. But the ones I want most of all are clouded leopards. Lots of mammal fans do the cat quest. Maybe I should break the mould and do a rabbit quest! 

 

 

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Peter Connan

Just shows you how uninformed I am, I thought the Ring-tailed was a Lemur...

 

@kittykat23uk, a rabbit quest sounds like fun!

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Antee
On 8/14/2018 at 4:46 PM, kittykat23uk said:

Congratulations on the sand cat @Antee . I still need that one. But the ones I want most of all are clouded leopards. Lots of mammal fans do the cat quest. Maybe I should break the mould and do a rabbit quest! 

 

 

 

@kittykat23uk Hehe, yes. That would be a fun one. There is some 60 species in the rabbit/hare family so it should be some fun work :) 

 

Oh yeah, that Clouded Leopard...

I am recently homecoming from Way Kambas NP in Indonesia where they also have been seen and saw some great pictures of them. No luck for me though. 
They have an interesting rabbit in this area (southern Sumatra) as well. Sumatran striped rabbit. Almost never seen and would be a quest for you :) 

My next one will be an easy one... Tiger in November. 

Edited by Antee

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kittykat23uk

Yeah one of the striped rabbits (tiger bunnies) would be awesome.  I also would like to see volcano rabbit some day.. 

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