Published information indicates that during the Soviet period the sand cat was largely distributed in the Takhta-Kupyr located in the western periphery of the desert.
Several encounters were also reported from the Ustyurt Plateau in northern Uzbekistan. Sabilaev (1962) observed a sand cat near a chink. Gromov et al. (1963) reported sightings of sand cats on the western shore of the Aral Sea and farther north up to the sands of Sam and Asmantay-Matay in Kazakhstan. Pavlaniyazov (1974) observed a cat on the plateau’s gypsum plain, and Lesnyak (1984) sighted a cat in an isolated sand area.
In southern Uzbekistan, sand cats were sighted in the west and north-east of Bukhara, in the Surkhandarya Province in the Kattakum sands (Bobrinskiy et al. 1944, Gromov et al. 1963, Geptner and Sludskii 1972, Pavlaniyazov 1974, Lesnyak et al. 1984) and in the Dzharkurgan sands (Geptner and Sludskii 1972).
In recent years, only a few individual specimens were encountered. Nuridzhanov (pers. comm.) reported sand cat footprints in the central Kyzylkum desert: near the village of Shukyrkak in 2006, in the Yamankumah Sands near the village of Aktakyr in 2011, and near the Karatuha well on 10 August 2013. Burnside (pers. comm.) photographed a sand cat in the Bukhara Province near the village of Kalata in April 2013 (see photos here).
The sand cat has never been included in the Red Book of the Uzbek SSR (1983) and subsequent editions of the Red Book of Uzbekistan (2003, 2006, 2009) as the cat was not considered rare in the country. Between 1960 and 1980, about 1,000 sand cats were killed annually in Uzbekistan for the fur trade though for hunting them it was necessary to travel to remote regions (Geptner and Sludskii 1972).
At present the status of the sand cat in Uzbekistan is unknown, and ecological aspects have not been studied. With the growth of the human population desert areas are increasingly used for building roads, cultivating crops, and livestock grazing. Local people use saxaul Haloxylon ammodendron, chingil Halimodendron halodendron and other shrubs as fuel and for feeding livestock. This leads to denudation of sandy areas, which has a negative impact upon their biodiversity, and areas suitable for sand cats are decreasing. Poaching of sand cats has not been recorded.
Text by Maria Gritsina, reviewed by Alex Sliwa and Angie Appel; map by Angie Appel, April 2014.
Suggested citation: Gritsina, M. 2014. Sand cats in Uzbekistan. Sand Cat Working Group.