By Sara Umbrell, Layout Director
To start off this semester’s Animal of the Week, say hello to the Otocolobus manul, otherwise known as the Pallas cat! Despite looking similar to domestic house cats, these guys actually inhabit colder mountainous regions and hail from Asia. They typically live in high elevation, grassland plateau habitats such as Mongolia, China and the Tibetan plateau. Pallas cats come in at around a foot tall, and they weigh five to 10 pounds on average. They have a stockier build than other cats. In addition, their outer fur has a thick, wooly underlayer that can be twice as long as the fur on the rest of its body. Pallas cats also have a third eyelid called a nictitating membrane to help shield them from any harsh winds they may encounter while up in the mountains. Being well adapted to mountain terrains, they are able to climb over rocky cliffs and crevices with ease. They are crepuscular, meaning that most of their hunting activity takes place at dusk or dawn with periods of rest during the day or night.
There is little study done on Pallas cats, but unfortunately their population is steadily declining. Most of the threat is from illegal hunting, but studies and organizations are working on getting more of the populations into protected zones. Right now, less than 20% of Pallas cats are in those protected zones. Hopefully as more research gets done, more and more of these cats will be able to live in these zones and eventually be safe from poaching.