DUBAI // Feral cats at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve will be neutered to stop them breeding with the rare Gordon's wildcat, as part of a programme to protect the native species.
A survey has found eight specimens that are thought to be Gordon's at the reserve - one male and seven females.
More than 40 ferals have been found.
DNA tests are to be conducted to check the Gordon's cats are genetically pure, and the feral cats will be spayed.
Cats with as little as 1 per cent non-Gordon's DNA will be neutered, as even that could lead to genetic problems in future generations.
Removing the ferals from the reserve would not suffice, as they can climb back over the fence.
"We'll neuter the ferals and control their numbers, and allow the wildcat population to grow on its own," said Peter Roosenschoon, a conservation officer at the reserve.
"We want to reintroduce more wildcats but we need to control the feral population first. And that's not just within the reserve, but surrounding the reserve as well."
The fence is more than 2.4 metres high, but desert sand can pile up against it, reducing the height to only 0.6 metres as drifts form.
Building a cat-proof barrier would be too expensive, Mr Roosenschoon said.