Pallas's cat


Central Asia is home to an immense variety of fascinating felines. Most people are familiar with the iconic snow leopard, but there is another, more mysterious little cat that inhabits these remote steppes and mountains – the Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul). With its wide range spanning 16 countries, RZSS works on a global scale to help protect this unique species.  

The Pallas’s cat, or manul, is about the size of a domestic cat, but its thick fur makes it appear larger and provides great insulation from the harsh conditions it lives in. It's sulky facial expressions have earned it the ‘original grumpy cat’ nickname and are partly caused by Pallas’s cats’ eyes having round pupils rather than slits like all other small cats.

Pallas’s cats face various threats across their wide range, mainly habitat loss and degradation due to agricultural expansion and infrastructural development, loss of their preferred prey (small rodents) and predation by domestic dogs. Their secretive nature and the remoteness of their habitat also make them difficult to study, and they are amongst the least known wild cat species in the world.  

RZSS has been working in close partnership with Nordens Ark, Snow Leopard Trust and many other organisations to enhance global conservation efforts for these cats since 2016 as part of PICA, the Pallas’s cat International Conservation Alliance. Building local capacity, supporting dedicated research, raising awareness, strategic planning and boosting international collaboration are all at the core of the project.  

Today, the Pallas’s cat has a dedicated Conservation Strategy, is listed under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), and the PICA Small Grant Programme has supported over 12 field conservation projects for the species in 10 range countries. Global awareness is also on the rise and the ‘Manul monitoring guidelines’ are helping researchers study these elusive cats in the wild.

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Project type

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Large-scale intiatives

The team

Kasia Ruta

Kasia Ruta

Conservation project officer

David Barclay setting a camera trap in the Cairngorms

David Barclay

Conservation manager (ex-situ)

Helen Senn 2024

Dr Helen Senn

Head of conservation and science programmes

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