The Pallas'cat (Otocolobus manul), often referred to as manul by local Mongolians, is the highly elusive, rarely studied, and globally threatened small wild cat species which is uniquely adapted to the harsh conditions of northern Asia.
Pallas cats are stocky, heavily furred cats about the size of a domestic cat. The broad head is quite unique with a flat forehead and a wide face, enhanced by dense cheeck sideburns and large ears set on the side of the head. The dense fur is silvery-gray to rufous-gray. The winter coat can be very long with pale, frosty appearance.
Manuls are known to use rock crevices and small caves as dens to avoid extreme temperatures and larger predators like wolves, steppe eagles and other birds of prey. During winter months, when temperatures often fall below -40° C, Pallas' cats migrate in small groups over large distances from Mongolia
northward and into Russia. They are also thought to occur in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and northern Afghanistan. Although they are well adapted for extreme cold, they avoid areas with deep snow and their range stops where prolonged snow cover of 15-20 cm begins.
Pallas cats are globally listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN (www.iucn.org) and ranked as a CITES (www.cites.org) Appendix II species. Their populations are declining. The extent of the decline remains unknown. In Mongolia, work by the Denver Zoo's Mongolia Program identified key threats the species in 2003. The most severe threat identified is from widespread over-hunting and illegal poaching. Pallas cats are hunted across Mongolia for their fur and body parts that are sold mainly to the medicinal markets of eastern Asia. More disturbingly, live manuls are sought for the pet trade in some international markets.
- Conserving the elusive Pallas cat and other carnivores of the Mongolian steppes. James Murdoch and Richard Reading
- Wild Cats of the World. Luke Hunter