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New Sanctuary for Rare and Fluffy Wildcats to Open in Siberia

As their numbers dwindle, the poofy Pallas’ Cats will finally get their own protected park

smithsonian.com

When it comes to wildcats, the extremely fluffy Pallas’ cat could probably win a cute contest. These wildcats prowl the mountains of Siberia and Mongolia, and though they look like extra fuzzy house cats, their numbers have dwindled in the wild. Luckily for the Pallas’ cat, however, conservationists have recently made a big step toward preserving their future by securing them their very own preserve.

The Pallas’ cat may be adorable, but their numbers are so low and their behavior so secretive that few scientists have ever studied them, Olga Gertcyk reports for The Siberian Times. “The Pallas' cat is unfairly forgotten in the world although the animal is on the edge of extinction. There are only a handful of researchers studying [the species] in Russia,” Denis Malikov, deputy director of the new Sailyugemsky Nature Park, tells Gertcyk.

The Pallas’ cat was first described by the German naturalist Peter Pallas in 1776 while he was trekking through the backwoods in the mountains of Siberia. While their Latin name, Otocolobus manul, means “ugly-eared,” the wildcat's dense and fluffy coat will melt the heart of most animal lovers. But all that fur serves a purpose: it both keeps them warm and enhances their size, reducing interest from potential predators, Josh Hrala reports for ScienceAlert.

While they may be cute, Pallas’ cats are difficult to study in the wild. Not only are they extremely shy and secretive, they live in remote and rocky regions and have a very brief mating season. Over the years, their numbers have dwindled to a mere handful from poachers after their huggable fluff, Hrala reports.

The new park, however, gives hope for the poofy Pallas’ cat’s fate. Located in Siberia’s Altai Mountains, the park is a little larger than 12 square miles and will be devoted to the preservation and study of these creatures. The area is equipped with several camera traps to monitor the wildcats and help scientists learn how to best protect this elusive species, Helena Horton reports for The Telegraph.

For starters, the scientists need to figure out just how many Pallas’s cats actually live in the new park. "The latest data on this species is outdated. It hasn't been updated over the last three or four decades," researcher Alexey Kuzhlekov tells Gertcyk. Once they have completed their count of the fuzzy wildcats, they can start studying their behavior and lifecycle. With any luck, the information learned from these newly protected creatures will help raise the number of these poofy beasts lurking in the wild.

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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