First Steps of Rare Pallas’s Cat Kittens

May 30, 2014 § Leave a comment


Camera trap footage has captured the moment six rare Pallas’s cat kittens have ventured outside of their nest box at Highland Wildlife Park.

The kittens, which are only seven weeks old and little more than balls of fur, are a major success story for the Park as this Near Threatened species is extremely difficult to breed due to high neonatal mortality rates. Pallas’s cats are highly susceptible to toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that is often fatal to kittens.

Although they are a fairly common species in zoos, very little is known about the Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul) in the wild.

David Barclay, one of the senior keepers at the Highland Wildlife Park, manages the European breeding programme for Pallas’s cat and maintains the International Studbook which records all captive Pallas’s cats anywhere in the world. Although only classed as Near Threatened, one of the low risk threat categories, we have seen how the status of a species that was long considered common can become highly threatened in a very short period of time.

Through his contacts within the cat conservation community, especially the Pallas’s Cat Working Group, he became aware of field researchers in Iran and Nepal that were studying Pallas’s cats but had little equipment. He then contacted all the participants of the breeding programme asking for donations to buy and supply video-trap cameras to the Iranian and Nepalese researchers. Many of the various zoos, along with us, helped out and the equipment has now been dispatched to the relevant researchers for placement in the field.

This work will not only increase our understanding of the species globally but it will highlight key areas that will allow for better targeting of conservation efforts in range countries and at the same time aid our efforts with the captive breeding programmes.

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