04/10/2017 in RZSS
Small cat conservation is something of a focus for RZSS. With a history in wildcat conservation in Scotland, first with our involvement with the Highland Tiger Project and now with Scottish Wildcat Action, we have and continue to undertake much needed efforts to conserve Scotland’s last remaining felid. The RZSS WildGenes lab have developed the understanding of the molecular taxonomy of the Sand Cat, an elusive desert felid, in collaboration with Al Ain Zoo; work that will aid future management decisions and assist in-situ conservation and research activities.
The third small cat species we are working on is the Pallas’s cat, previously held at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo and with a planned return to RZSS Highland Wildlife Park in 2018. We hold the International and European studbook for the species and in collaboration with Nordens Ark and the Snow Leopard Trust we are undertaking a global conservation project under the banner of ‘PICA’. PICA or the Pallas’s Cat International Conservation Alliance is run by the partnership and supports a number of field based projects researching and raising awareness of the species through donations from global zoological collections alongside the conservation project we are undertaking thanks to a grant from the Fondation Segré .
Above: Mongolian MSc student, Tamir, taking her first dip in the sea. Tamir had never previously seen the sea coming from a landlocked country.
As part of our conservation activities the project is supporting a Mongolian MSc student, Tamir, to undertake her studies at the National University of Mongolia. Earlier this year Tamir made her first trip to Scotland to develop the resources for her field work and experience a different country and culture.
Education materials including a poster, leaflet and pocket guide that Tamir translated into Mongolian during her visit to Scotland have been developed by the project with help from the RZSS Interpretation Team. These resources will be translated into a number of other languages and used throughout the Pallas’s cat range to raise awareness of the species and gain a greater understanding of how people interact with the cat.
Above: Tamir surveying households in the South Gobi National Park and leaving them with RZSS generated resources on Pallas's cats.
Tamir’s field work involved surveying households in the South Gobi National Park and asking herders about Pallas’s cat’s and leaving them with leaflets and posters to learn more about the species and/or to decorate their homestead with. She returned from the field in August and has shared the photos below of her trip. We are looking forward to seeing the results of all the surveys once the data has been analysed. This work will not only improve local knowledge of the species but will be part of a wider PICA awareness campaign across range countries which will improve our understanding of threats and attitudes enabling more targeted conservation action.
For more information about the PICA project please visit: pallascats.org