Friday, November 17, 2017

RZSS supports community outreach work in Mongolia to help Pallas’s cat.

RZSS supports community outreach work in Mongolia to help Pallas’s cat.

Photo credit - Jon-Paul Orsi

RZSS supports community outreach work in Mongolia to help Pallas’s cat.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) is supporting key outreach work in Mongolia to help better understand one of the least studied cats in the world, the Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul). 

RZSS has been working with local communities to help increase the 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.

RZSS Cat Conservation Officer David Barclay said:
“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. 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.

“The PICA partnership with Nordens Ark and the Snow Leopard Trust, funded by Fondation Segré and global Pallas’s cat zoological collections, aims to do this by learning more about the species and the threats they face in the wild. This means working with local people throughout the cat’s natural range to help raise awareness of the species and help us gain a greater understanding of how people interact with the cats to help inform global conservation efforts.

PICA was established in 2016 by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Nordens Ark and the Snow Leopard Trust and is working with numerous partners, including field researchers, small cat specialists, the IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group and other international zoological collections.   

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 whilst combining that information with camera trapping surveys, interview studies, and education programs to help develop the first ever global action plan for the species.

It is believed that Pallas’s cat faces many threats including the poisoning of prey species for pest control, hunting for skins and body parts, habitat loss and population fragmentation. Work being undertaken by PICA aims to collect data on such threats and use this to support future conservation action.  

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.

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