Pallas’s Cat Project – Update from Iran

September 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

A young Pallas’s cat (O.m.ferrugineus) found by ranger (©M.Farhadinia)

A young Pallas’s cat (O.m.ferrugineus) found by ranger (©M.Farhadinia)

One of the main reasons I established these Pallas’s cat support projects was to improve our knowledge of the species in countries where their presence and distribution is unknown or unclear. Currently there are three subspecies documented: Otocolobus manul manul, Otocolobus manul nigriprectus and Otocolobus manul ferrugineus. Despite their historical documentation there is very little evidence to suggest that they are indeed unique subspecies and not simply regional colour variations.

Mohammad and his team at a camera trap location in Salouk (M.Farhadinia)

Mohammad and his team at a camera trap location in Salouk (M.Farhadinia)

In an attempt to explore the physical differences between populations and to boost efforts in a country where few studies have been carried out, I made contact with an Iranian researcher Mohammad Farhadinia back in 2013. Mohammad has been involved with Iranian cheetah conservation and research for many years and has, in the last few years, turned his hand to Pallas’s cat research. Working in Tandoureh, Salouk and Sarigol national parks in North Eastern Iran, Mohammad and his team – with support from RZSS and other European zoos – are slowly uncovering new findings with Pallas’s cats, improving the awareness of the species in a key range country and most of all improving our understanding of Otocolobus manul ferruginea (the western subspecies).

Persian leopard at kill site (M.Farhadinia)

Persian leopard at kill site (M.Farhadinia)

Although camera trapping efforts have produced some amazing images of other local fauna, most notably the Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor), Pallas’s cats have yet to be caught on camera. However, during field expeditions Mohammad has been made aware of several sightings of dead Pallas’s cats and a number of abandoned kittens (thought to be leopard cubs on occasion) that have been cared for and subsequently released.

A young Pallas found dead in Tandoureh (© M.Ashrafzadeh)

A young Pallas found dead in Tandoureh (© M.Ashrafzadeh)

One such kitten is still in care, given its young age, but plans to release it and monitor its movements through a radio collar are being discussed. This would be the 1st time a Pallas’s cat has been radio collared in Iran. Should this happen we will be in a position to offer financial support and gain a valuable insight into the behaviour and ecology of Pallas’s cats in their western range.

With another RZSS support project being established in the central Alborz Mountains of Iran, it is clear that interest in the species is growing not just in range countries but throughout the zoo world. It is an exciting time for Pallas’s cats and as long as I am breathing I will continue to support the conservation and research efforts and wave the Pallas’s cat flag.

Join me next time where we will visit our support project in Altanbulag, Northen Mongolia.

If you are interested in learning more about RZSS Cat Conservation projects, why not join me for a Cat Conservation evening with Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull on Monday 19 October at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo at 6:30pm. Not only will you hear about our cat conservation projects from across the globe but also hear from our special guest, one of Scotland’s most famous musicians, Ian Anderson. Find out why Ian has taken time out to support our work and share his feelings toward small cat conservation.

All the best until then,


David Barclay
RZSS Cat Conservation Project Officer

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