On the Mediterranean island of Corsica, of all places, quite a surprising discovery has been made. A new species of cat that may have been introduced as long ago a 6,500 BC!
The cat-fox is slightly larger the common domestic cat has achieved the status of being recognized as its own separate species. There are only about 16 cats left on the island and wildlife experts are rushing to give them protected status.
Though similar to domestic cats there are at least seven distinct differences. Known as Ghjattu volpe, or Cat-Fox, have wider ears, shorter whiskers and “highly developed canine teeth.”
They are about 90cm (35inches) long from head to tail the cats are thought to have been missed up until because of their nocturnal habits and their generally inconspicuous appearance.
They also have striped front legs, a reddish stomach, striped tail, and dark back legs. Their fur is quite dense which helps to deter fleas and ticks.
Finally, after several year of failed attempts, one of the reclusive, elusive cats was caught after unwittingly wander into a chicken coop in 2008
Chief environmental technician of the National Hunting and Wildlife Office Pierre Bendetti said: that the discovery of the cats was ‘wonderful’ – speaking as a cat lover, I couldn’t agree more, pal.
Charles-Antone Cecchini, who works with Bendetti at the National Hunting and Wildlife Office, said: “The cat-fox is part of our shepherd mythology.
From generation to generation, they told stories of how the forest cats would attack the udders of their ewes and goats.”
Benedetti, who has spent more than a decade researching the species, said: “By looking at its DNA, we could tell it apart from the European wildcat, Felissilvestrissilvestris. It’s close to the African forest cat, Felissilvestrislybica, but its exact identity is still to be determined.”
After setting up a number of cameras and traps, researchers were able to capture one in 2016.
But despite all they’ve learnt about the cats so far, there’s still mystery surrounding the feline – such as how it come to be on the island.
Benedetti reckons the cats could have been brought over by farmers in 6,500 BC, which, if true, means the cats have their origins in the middle east.
For now, the cats are being fitted with identification chips to make studying them easier.