Changing Planet

Rare Footage of Pallas’s Cat Cubs in Mongolia’s Zoolon Mountains

By Matthias Fiechter

The Pallas’s cat is a small, little known wild cat species living in the steppes and mountains of Central Asia. Through a new research initiative “PICA” (Pallas’s Cat International Conservation Alliance) launched earlier this year, conservationists are hoping to better understand this feline. The project is still in its early stages, but it has already produced some outstanding, rare footage of Pallas’s cats, including video of wild cubs.

The footage (featured at the top of this post) was taken by a set of remote-sensor research cameras stationed in the Zoolon Mountains, in Mongolia’s Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park. One sequence, shot during the night, shows three Pallas’ cat cubs curiously examining the camera, while another snippet features an adult cat in broad daylight looking for signs of other animals.

Pallas Cat in Mogolia. Photograph courtesy of the Snow Leopard Trust.
The Pallas’s Cat (Otocolobus manul) diverged from its Leopard Cat ancestor about six million years ago, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The conservation status of the cat is assessed as Near Threatened, close to qualifying for a Threatened category on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in the near future. Major threats include degradation and fragmentation of habitat. Mongolia is probably its stronghold, IUCN says. Image of a Pallas’s Cat in its range in Mongolia courtesy of the Snow Leopard Trust/RZSS/Nordens Ark.

First Footage of Pallas’s Cat Cubs in This Part of Mongolia?

“This is the first footage of Pallas’s cat cubs taken in this part of Mongolia as far as we know and is a valuable discovery from our project partners Snow Leopard Trust”, says David Barclay, Cat Conservation Officer at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS).

The cameras are part of the new international Pallas’s cat conservation project, PICA, founded by the RZSS, Nordens Ark, a Swedish breeding center and zoo Nordens Ark, and U.S.-based conservation organization Snow Leopard Trust that aims to gather more information on the Pallas’s cat, one of the world’s least-studied felines.

“If we’re hoping to conserve this mysterious cat, we need to first understand it, and we’re hoping this study will bring valuable new insights.” — Emma Nygren, Nordens Ark

“We still don’t know much about the Pallas’s cat’s behavior, or even it’s true range,” says Emma Nygren, a conservation biologist at Nordens Ark who coordinates the research project. “If we’re hoping to conserve this mysterious cat, we need to first understand it, and we’re hoping this study will bring valuable new insights.”

The Snow Leopard Trust, which has been working in this part of Mongolia for more than a decade, is a technical and logistical partner in the project. “We’re surveying these mountains for snow leopards anyway. The Pallas’s cat shares the same habitat and is equally elusive, so it’s a logical extension of our work to also look at them,” says Gustaf Samelius, Assistant Director of Science at the Snow Leopard Trust.

The study, which was made possible by the generous support of Fondation Segré, will continue for at least three years.

Matthias Fiechter is the Communications Manager for the Snow Leopard Trust, a Seattle, Washington-based charity with a mission to conserve the snow leopard and its mountain ecosystem through a balanced approach that considers the needs of local people and the environment.

More about the Pallas’s Cat (IUCN Red List assessment and profile)

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland was founded by visionary lawyer Thomas Gillespie in 1909 ‘to promote, facilitate and encourage the study of zoology and kindred subjects and to foster and develop amongst the people an interest in and knowledge of animal life’. The Society still exists to connect people with nature and safeguard species from extinction. Please visit here for information on all our conservation projects.

Nordens Ark  is a Swedish non-profit foundation working to protect endangered species through conservation breeding and reintroduction programs as well as through research, field conservations programs and education. Nordens Ark was founded in 1989 and focus on applied conservation actions in Sweden as well as abroad. The foundation works with a wide range of species from snow leopards and Pallas’s cats to Lesser White-fronted Geese and Lemur-leaf frogs.

Snow-Leopard-Trust-byline-imageThe Snow Leopard Trust, based in Seattle, Washington, is a world leader in conservation of the endangered snow leopard, conducting pioneering research and partnering with communities as well as authorities in snow leopard habitat to protect the cat. Please go to for more information about our research and conservation programs.

Big Cats Conservation

The National Geographic Big Cats Initiative funds research to save snow leopards and other big cats in the wild: Saving Snow Leopards in Upper Mustang, Nepal, by Predator-Proofing Livestock Corrals

The Snow Leopard Trust, a Seattle, Washington-based charity with a mission to conserve the snow leopard and its mountain ecosystem through a balanced approach that considers the needs of local people and the environment. Conservation Approach / Philosophy understand the snow leopard’s needs, monitor its current status and identify current and future threats through research address threats in partnership with local communities raise the profile of the snow leopard and awareness for its plight and its value through education partner with governmental and non-governmental actors to protect key snow leopard habitats
  • Josh Gross

    Wonderful footage! I’m glad this study is under way: it’d be great to learn more about this elusive cat.

  • Kathy

    I love Pallas cats, and had no idea they were so like the other big cats. You can really see it in the footage of the cubs – as adults they look more like Scottish Wildcats or even Maine Coon cats but as cubs… More please 🙂

  • pancake underpants

    Me Like PALLAS CAT. They sound Yummy and fluffy. WHere can I Buy One

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