It took two days for me and small cat conservationist Anya Barashkova and our colleagues to drive from Novosibirsk, Siberia, to the new extension to Sailugem National Park on the border between Russia and Mongolia. In addition to doing an interview with local TV, we checked previously set camera traps and set up additional camera traps to look for Pallas’ Cats and other wildlife.
Our wildlife viewing was a success: While surveying the classic Asian steppe habitat, the team observed pikas, marmots, three blond wolves, Red Fox, Argali, and Ibex, along with numerous Steppe Eagles. We observed a single Pallas’ Cat (known there by its Latin name Manul) and inspected the pictures on previously set camera traps, which had, indeed, recorded the cat, confirming its presence here. All cameras will be checked again in November.
The landscape was littered with marmot and badger holes, as well as pika and rock vole holes, and the night before we departed a light snow dusted higher elevations. The presence or absence of Pallas’ Cats is determined by a combination of: (1) holes excavated by comparably sized mammals, (2) small rodent prey that do not hibernate, and (3) low snow depth throughout winter.
Here’s how it works:
Pallas’ Cats, which the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifies as Near Threatened, den in holes in the ground excavated by badgers and marmots. Pika and rock voles do not hibernate and because snow depth is typically less than 10 cm, Pallas’ Cats can find its rodent prey. If snow depth exceeds this depth, rodents can find food beneath the snow where they remain undetected by Pallas’ Cats. Unfortunately in this case, Pallas’ Cats then face the threat of starvation within a week.
We were pleased see so much wildlife in the new extension of Sailugem National Park. And we’re thrilled that Anya’s camera-trap monitoring program is now operational.
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