Conservation experts to research mysterious Pallas’s Cats

One of the world’s most mysterious species of cats is to be studied by experts from the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS).

Pallas's Cat

Photograph by: Jon-Paul OrsiPallas’s Cat

The RZSS has been supporting key outreach work in Mongolia to help better understand the Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul).

Pallas’s cats are short stocky cats mainly grey-brown in colour with dark spots on the head and a dark-ringed tail allowing them to blend into their rocky and grasslands habitats which span from Iran in the west to China and Mongolia in the east.

With their thick fur they are perfectly adapted for surviving the harsh climatic conditions of Central Asia and can be found in the high mountain plateaus at elevations exceeding 5,000m above sea level.

Photograph by: Vincent MunierPallas’s cat in the wild

However the species is at risk from a variety of threats, including the poisoning of prey species for pest control, hunting for skins and body parts, habitat loss and population fragmentation.

Working with local communities the Scottish experts aim to help increase understanding of this little known species as part of the Pallas’s Cat International Conservation Alliance (PICA), of which the RZSS is a founding partner.

“There are large gaps in our knowledge of Pallas’s cats across the species range and this limits our ability to create effective conservation strategies,” said David Barclay, RZSS Cat Conservation Officer.

“The community outreach, involving threat surveys, community engagement and delivery of educational materials provides us with new information and allows us to give something back to help raise awareness of the species.”

Photograph by: Jon-Paul Orsi

The PICA partnership with Nordens Ark and the Snow Leopard Trust, funded by Fondation Segré and global Pallas’s cat zoological collections, is working with local people throughout the cat’s natural range to help raise awareness of the species and gain a greater understanding of how people interact with the cats to inform global conservation efforts.

A major challenge for the conservation of small cat species like the Pallas’s cat is establishing accurate baseline knowledge. The PICA project is active across multiple ranges where it is gaining new data about the distribution, threats and the ecology of the species while combining that information with camera trapping surveys, interview studies, and education programs to help develop the first ever global action plan for the species.