The Pallas Cat or Manul is one of the most unusual of all felines. Much of this to its extreme adaptations to a hostile climate. Some call it the original “Grumpy Cat” as it is ultra-solitary and rather bad tempered.
It is not well studied either and much remains unknown.
The Pallas Cat International Conservation Alliance (PICA)is seeking to fill in the gaps in our knowledge and help protect manul,. The manul was first described by famous German naturalist Peter Pallas in 1776.
The cat is one of the more unusual looking of 41 species of cats in the world. According to the Manul Working Group AKA Pallas Cat Working Group, (PCWG).:
“The Pallas’ cat is a mammal of felines, roughly the size of a domestic cat. Body length (males) is 50-62 cm on average, body mass reaches 4.5 kg. Its appearance is rather unusual due to its long and dense body fur, thick furry tail that looks as if it’s been cut, elongated bunches of hair on cheeks and under bluntly rounded, widely set ears, and slightly flattened head. Coat color is mostly light gray, though it may vary to russet or buff, with narrow black stripes running along its back, while white hair tips look akin to a veil. Two dark stripes running from eyes down the muzzle and small black spots on the forehead are characteristic features of Pallas’ cat appearance that set it aside from other wild cats.”
Currently the cat is listed as “least concern” by the IUCN, the international body that monitors wildlife populations. But although widely distributed much is not known and some fear the population trend in downward.
They live throughout Central Asia and beyond being found in countries including Iran, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Nepal, India, Bhutan, Turkmenistan, China and Russia.
They are primarily consumers of gerbils, voles, pikas, small marmots, hamsters, lizards and birds.
One problem facing the species is captive breeding.
The Red River Zoo in North Dakota is the only Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) affiliated zoo to consistently breed them, web reports say. The San Diego Zoo acquired two from Moscow in 1999. They went to another zoo in 2008. While in San Diego they gave birth to kittens.
Against this backdrop of uncertainty PICA has been working since 2016:
“In “order to improve our understanding of the species and at the same time enhance the global conservation efforts, the Pallas’s cat International Conservation Alliance (PICA) was established. PICA was formed in 2016 through a collaboration between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Nordens Ark Zoo of Sweden and the Snow Leopard Trust with funding and support provided by Fondation Segre. This ambitious project works together with range country field researchers, the Pallas’s Cat Working Group (PCWG), conservation organizations, zoological collections and conservation specialists to undertake its key objectives.
Currently our main focus is to advance conservation action for the Pallas’s cat and to build capacity through implementation of the Pallas’s Cat Conservation Strategy and by supporting the global network of the Pallas’s Cat Working Group.”