Pallas’s Cat Photographed for First Time in Bhutan

Camera traps have captured the first-ever photographic evidence of the Pallas’s cat in Bhutan’s Wangchuck Centennial Park (WCP). Also known as manul, this cat is a primitive species, defined by a strikingly flat head with high-set eyes and low-set ears that enable it to peer over rocky ledges in search of prey. The images of this cat, classified as near threatened on the IUCN Red List, were discovered as part of a snow leopard survey conducted by WWF and the Department of Forests and Park Services.

“This is an exciting and remarkable discovery that proves that the Pallas’s cat exists in the Eastern Himalayas,” said Rinjan Shrestha, Conservation Scientist at WWF. “This probably indicates a relatively undisturbed habitat, which gives us hope not only for the Pallas’s cat, but also the snow leopard, Tibetan wolf and other threatened species that inhabit the region.”

The cat’s habitat is characterized by rolling hills and Alpine Steppe vegetation. These camera trap images were recorded at the same locations where other predators including snow leopard, Tibetan wolf, leopard cat, and red fox are found. Their habitats are also seasonal grazing grounds for yaks and visited by people collecting cordyceps, a fungus that is prized for its medicinal properties.

Pallas’s cats possess behavioral traits that help them survive even in the cold deserts of Central Asia. They are mainly threatened by poaching for their fur, fat and organs for medicinal value. Populations are declining globally and even disappearing from the Caspian Sea region and Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

WWF has actively supported conservation in the Wangchuk Centennial Park since its inception in 2008. We are the only non-governmental organization to co-manage a protected area with the government in Bhutan.