RZSS Cat Conservation Blog

October 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

Normally I would start the blog by introducing you to yet another Pallas’s cat project that we support in the field. However, it has become clear that since I started writing these blogs the support, interest and commitment (from both the RZSS and our supporters) to cat conservation and research projects has grown, and for these reasons I will take a lot of pleasure in updating you on all our cat projects through this re-titled cat conservation blog.

Pallas's cat kitten Mongolia 2015 by B.Munkhtsog

Pallas’s cat kitten Mongolia 2015 by B.Munkhtsog

With the momentum of our cat projects growing all the time, it has been a busy time for me both at home and abroad. Since last month we have sent further financial support to Bariushaa Munkhtsog, a Mongolian researcher who is conducting research into productivity and trends with Pallas’s cats in Central Mongolia. Not only has Bariushaa and his team spent years monitoring wild snow leopards, he is also one of the few researchers to be currently monitoring breeding female Pallas’s cats, which is providing an amazing insight into their behaviour and movements pre- and post-dispersal.

Another great achievement for RZSS was the signing of a new three year partnership with the Snow Leopard Trust and Nordens Ark Zoo in Sweden. This took place during a three-day visit to Nordens Ark where myself, Chris West (CEO) and Sarah Robinson (Head of Conservation Programmes and Science) spent time with staff from both organisations exploring the possibilities of this new joint venture. This has already opened new doors for our cat conservation and research projects and it will be amazing to see how this develops.

Snow leopard and pallas cat partnership, Nordens Ark Zoo, Sweden

Snow leopard and pallas cat partnership, Nordens Ark Zoo, Sweden

After several productive meetings with Scottish land managers and estates discussing how we can work together to secure the future of Scottish wildcats, I attended a week long European Association for Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) conference in Wroclaw, Poland. This gave me the opportunity to deliver presentations on our work with Scottish Wildcat Action, Pallas’s cats and snow leopards.

EAZA Conference ice-breaker, Wroclaw, Poland

EAZA Conference ice-breaker, Wroclaw, Poland

One of the great things about this job is not only having the chance to work with some amazing species, but having the chance to work with so many diverse people and organisations that share the same passion that I do. I am fortunate to be supported by both my own organisation and many other international colleagues and it is this support that drives my enthusiasm for conserving cat species across the globe. There are many exciting projects and events that I will be sharing with you over the coming year so stay tuned and I look forward to introducing you to more of the work that we do.

All the best until then,

David

David Barclay
RZSS Cat Conservation Project Officer

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

David Barclay
RZSS Cat Conservation Project Officer

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