One of the World’s Most Secretive Cats
Pallas’s Cats can be found primarily in the grassland and shrub-land steppe of Central Asia, but is found as far west as Western Iran and previously was known to inhabit Armenia and Azerbaijan. The core populations of Pallas’s Cat exist in Mongolia and China where they can live in elevation of 5,050 meters on the Tibetan Plateau.
This secretive cat is rarely seen so getting an estimate on population is difficult. With the addition of camera traps, images of the fluffy cat with the expressive face are popping up more frequently. Also known as Manul cats, a name of Mongolian origin this wild cat is about the same size as our domestic cats, even though they appear much bigger. The Pallas’s Cat has an amazing 9,000 hairs per square centimeter and the hair can be up to 7 centimeters in length, making their fur longer and denser than any other cat!
The reclusive behavior and rarity of the species has prevented a specific conservation action being implemented to protect resources essential for the cats’ survival. The threats to Pallas’s Cat are habitat degradation and fragmentation. The degradation is occurring due to increased human population and the expansion of animal husbandry across the species range. Over-hunting and poisoning of the Pallas’s Cat prey base is another serious threat.
Pallas’s Cats are Listed as Near Threatened under CITES
Listed as Near Threatened under CITES, hunting of Pallas’s Cat is prohibited in all range countries except Mongolia where the cat has no legal protection even though classified as Near Threatened in the country. The Pallas’s Cat has long been hunted for their fur in relatively large number in Mongolia, Russia and China but international trade in Pallas’s Cat pelts has nearly stopped since the late 1980s. Last estimate, there were 1000 hunters of Pallas’s Cats in Mongolia with an estimated mean harvest of two cats per year. Pallas’s Cats are also shot by mistake by hunters looking for marmots. The cats are trapped as by-catch in leg-hold traps set for wolves and foxes and in snares set for marmot and hares.
The cat is a distant relative, millions of years ago, to the leopard. The cat is a native of Siberia but lives in the shadow if their more famous cousins the Amur Tiger and Leopard. Technology will help scientists learn more about this gorgeous little cat, by capturing them on camera like the photos in this post captured by camera trap in the Altai Biosphere Reserve.