Rare forest cat was first discovered on Mount Everest
One of the most unique species of wildcat on the planet has been discovered for the first time on the highest mountain on Earth – Mount Everest.
The Pallas cat has short, stout legs and a striped, fluffy body, but is most famous for its face that resembles a Persian domestic cat waking up feeling extremely grumpy that day.
Although this small, sour-looking wildcat can be found in many countries in Asia, mainly in Central Asia, its largest population is thought to exist in Mongolia.
Finding evidence that at least one of Pallas’s cats lives in one of the most remote places on Earth has surprised researchers.
“It is extraordinary to discover evidence of this rare and remarkable species at the top of the world,” said Tracie Seimon with the Wildlife Conservation Society Zoological Health Program at the Bronx Zoo.
“The nearly four-week journey has been incredibly rewarding not only for our team but also for the larger scientific community. The discovery of the Pallas cat on Everest sheds light on the rich biodiversity of this remote alpine ecosystem and extends its known range to eastern Nepal.”
The discovery was made possible by data collected by Seimon and other scientists during the National Geographic’s Everst and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everst Expedition, a scientific expedition to collect environmental samples in Sagarmatha National Park on the southern slopes of Mount Everest.
Samples were taken at two locations, at 5,110 and 5,190 meters above sea level.
When the fecal samples were analyzed, the researchers were able to confirm that some of the samples came from Pallas cats and that their territories overlapped with red foxes.
The researchers also found pika and mountain ferret DNA in the samples, both of which are known to be major food sources for Pallas cats.
The Pallas cat, also known as the otocolobus manul, is one of the smallest wildcat species, about the size of a domestic cat and commonly inhabits the steppe grasslands of Mongolia, China and Tibet. Unlike most cats, they have round pupils instead of vertical slits.
The find also adds another animal to the list of known mammals in Sagarmatha National Park, a protected World Heritage Site.
“This is a unique find not only from a scientific point of view but also from a conservation point of view as this population of Pallas cats is legally protected under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). endangered),” Dr Anton Seimon, National Geographic Explorer and co-author of the paper reporting their findings, said in the release. “We hope that the confirmation of this fascinating new species will raise awareness and education about the diversity of species at this iconic World Heritage Site.”
Although the Pallas cat is not considered endangered, it is elusive and rarely spotted by humans. The researchers note that although the national park around the mountain used to have very few visitors, that number has increased over the years to more than 50,000 in 2019, making as of 2019, the Pallas cat. undetected is rarer.