International Society For Endangered Cats

A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World

A Lifeline for the Pallas Cat

The Pallas cat Otocolobus manul is a small wild cat from Central Asia. These cats have a broad but patchy distribution in the steppe grasslands of Mongolia, China and the Tibetan Plateau. They are generally considered rare and uncommon throughout their range.

The most serious threat to these small cats is the depletion of their prey base through poisoning and over-hunting. Poisoning to control rodent populations has taken place on a large scale in Central Asia where they are considered to carry bubonic plague, and in China where they are considered to compete with domestic stock for graze.

Their habitat is also being degraded by domestic livestock and agriculture. While livestock had decreased during the 1990s in Russia and is believed to have led to improving status of Pallas cats there, livestock is now spreading back across steppe areas with an improving economy. Mining is also on the increase in Pallas cat habitat in Russia and other parts of Central Asia.

Although international trade in their pelts has largely ceased since the late 1980s, Mongolia still permits hunting of Pallas cats for “household purposes.” The permitting system is ineffective, and Pallas cat furs are illegally exported to China. Mongolia does not record any trophy exports, but skin exports have grown since 2000, with 143 reported exported in 2007.

Pallas cats are also shot because they are mistaken for marmots, which are commonly hunted, and trapped in leghold traps set for wolves and foxes and snares set for marmot and hares. Their fat and organs are used as medicine, and they are killed by domestic dogs.

Hunting of this species is prohibited in all range countries except Mongolia, where it has no legal protection despite being classified as Near Threatened. Approximately 12% of the species’ range in Mongolia occurs within protected areas, and in Russia, about 6% of otheir range is protected.

These unusual little wild cats don’t seem to have a lot going for them. As of July 2010, there were less than 200 Pallas cats recorded in the International Species Inventory System, a regulatory body that keeps track of breeding animals in zoos.

This video, therefore, is doubly important. Not only will the antics of a group of seven week old kittens make anyone smile with pleasure, but the reproduction of Pallas cats will help increase their rapidly dwindling population.

Congratulations to the Wildlife Heritage Foundation in the UK for their successful husbandry program for Pallas cats. May you have many more Pallas cat litters to celebrate in the future, and thank you for sharing your wonderful video with us!

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