We have met the manul (Pallas’ Cat) already in these pages. The unusual cat with its distinctive appearance and unfriendly nature is sometimes called the original “Grumpy Cat.”
In fact it is highly adapted to a life in a frightfully cold part of the world. Those adaptations, specifically luxurious fur, have threatened it with extinction at human hands.
But recently news of an astonishing discovery has come to light. Traces of the small cats have been spotted on the slopes of Mt. Everest. Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth is just over 29000 feet tall.
According to HuffPost researchers found mammal scats (droppings) at over 17,000 feet in 2019. They were eventually determined to be from manuls. The number of cats living on the mountain and the exact height they have reached is unknown.
The report was published in winter 2022 in the Cat News section of the Cat Specialist Group report of the International Union for the For the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The abstract reads:
“We present the first report of Pallas’s cat Otocolobus manul in eastern Nepal, within Sagarmatha National Park, Mount Everest Region, based on genetic evidence from scat samples. We collected the samples from two locations 6 km apart at 5,110 and 5,190 m elevation. DNA metabarcoding analysis identified two individuals from the collected samples. Prey species identified in the scat samples consisted of pika Ochotona roylei (in all samples) and mountain weasel Mustela altaica (in one sample). Red fox Vulpes vulpes scat was identified from the same location as the Pallas’s cat, indicating an overlap in predator territory. These findings extend the range of Pallas’s cat into eastern Nepal and add a new species to the list of known mammals in Sagarmatha National Park. “
The IUCN maintains the world listing of the status of many mammals and their risk of extinction.
Everest and its surroundings is home to many animals, some of them endangered. Red pandas (Ailurus fulgens), , snow leopards (Panthera uncia), Himalayan Tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus), Himalayan black bear (Selenarctos Thibetanus), and Musk deer (Moschus mosschiferus) also inhabit the region. Himalayn tahr are wild goats adapted to the mountain life.
Sagamartha National Park is the first national park in Nepal and is dominated by Mt. Everest. Named in 1976, it is 1,148 square kilometers of the high Himalayas.
It is comforting news as the number of Pallas cats is unknown and the number is thought to be declining. The elusive cats are found in Central Asia, Iran Afghanistan, Chinal Mongolia and Russia. The cats live from grasslands and deserts up the mountan sides. Manuals eat gerbils, voles, pikas, hamsters and small marmots. In turn, they are preyed on by large eagles and foxes.