Community Education and Field Research for the Pallas' Cat Conservation Project
The Denver Zoo's Pallas' Cat Conservation Project aims to determine the status and natural history of the wild Pallas' cat. Learning from disease problems evident in the captive population, the extreme susceptibility of Pallas' cats to fatal toxoplasmosis and FIV-related disease is being examined. We have collected biological samples and photographs from 15 wild Pallas' cats, two wildcats, 15 domestic cats, and 60 prey species for complete health assessment, and disease screening. We have also VHF-radio collared eight wild Pallas' cats and two wildcats and are supporting a team of Mongolian herdsmen and field biology students to describe homeranges and behavior patterns.
Preliminary telemetry and behavior research of our Mongolian wild Pallas' cats includes determining the general homeranges of our eight collared cats and observing mating, inter and intraspecies relations, and hunting/ feeding behaviors. Approximate homeranges of 2000 sq km have been determined, with males traveling large distances (up to 20 km) in one day. Females spend up to three months in the spring/summer in one location in underground holes raising their kittens.
Three study sites have been established in the central, southern, and western regions of Mongolia. We are now in the process of developing our study sites, field teams, and telemetry methodology. GPS collars, light enough for our small Pallas' cats, are being developed. We hope to put GPS collars on one male and one female Pallas' cat very soon.
This project is providing vital information on the status of this species in the wild which will help to determine its current threat status as well as determining ways to protect the existing wild population from further threat. This species has had difficulty thriving in captivity due to its extreme disease susceptibility and therefore it is imperative that strategies be developed to protect what is left of the wild population.
The Ulysses S. Seal Conservation Grant Program of the Minnesota Zoo awarded “The Pallas' Cat Conservation Project” $2500 in 2004 for the purchase of a GPS radio collar to be used to increase the number of collared cats in the field which will continue to expand the knowledge base of the wild Pallas cat population in Mongolia so that conservation measures can be better implemented. Staff champion for this project is Dr. Martha Caron, conservation biologist. She is currently serving as the International studbook keeper and the AZA Species Survival Plan Coordinator for the Pallas cat.