Pallas’s cats caught on camera in their natural environment at Sayano-Shushensky Nature Reserve

 02/18/2013, 12:31
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Pallas’s cats caught on camera in their natural environment at Sayano-Shushensky Nature Reserve
Pallas’s cats captured by trail cameras in the Sayano-Shushensky Nature Reserve

Sayano-Shushensky Nature Reserve in the Krasnoyarsk Territory has reported the first results of its programme, launched in 2010, to install automatic cameras in the natural habitat of Pallas’s cats, according to a report from the reserve press office seen by Sib.fm’s correspondent.

One of the cameras captured a Pallas’s cat (also known as a manul: a small wildcat native to the mountains of Siberia, Tibet and Mongolia) for the first time in 2010. «Before that, there was no documentary evidence of its habitation in the Krasnoyarsk Territory,» stressed a reserve spokesman.

Since then, staff have been observing specific individuals in their usual habitats, as well as keeping a register of members of the species. «This is illustrated by these pictures, taken recently in the reserve by trail cameras at different times of day. Their particular value lies in the fact that the manul has been recorded amidst its natural habitat,» added the source.

While acknowledging the poor quality of the photos, the reserve administration noted that the manul has been captured exactly as it appears in the wild.

«The Pallas’s cats at the Sayano-Shushensky Reserve seem quite Siberian,» stated the reserve press office. «It’s an imposing sort of tomcat — they even toy with their prey once they’ve caught it, in no hurry at all. They’re squat and furry, cautious but curious».

The cats’ habitats in the reserve and its buffer zone, on the right bank of the reservoir formed by the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric power plant, are mostly rocky hillsides and stone runs sloping down to the Yenisei River, preferably south-facing with little snow. Pallas’s cats live in the same places as the snow leopard and other rare predators, including the marten — another species that has recently been spotted in the reserve.

Nevertheless, studying Pallas’s cats is no walk in the park. Tracking is virtually ineffective in winter. The animal is so clever and cunning that it leaves virtually no trace in its permanent habitats, and there have never been any direct visual sightings in the reserve. The automatic cameras provide scientists with their most valuable primary research material.

In August 2012, ecologists reported that they had calculated the population and examined the spread of Pallas’s cats in the Tuva Republic, one of the largest wildcat habitats in the world.

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