Posted on 16 October 2012
Camera traps have captured the first-ever live pictorial evidence of Pallas’ Cat in the northern-central part of the Wangchuck Centennial Park (WCP) in Bumthang.
The Cat was found in a place called Boera on January 17, 2012 and then again on April 1, 2012. Two more pictures were captured from Marganphu area on February 19 and April 18, 2012.
The cameras were placed from late November 2011 to early June 2012 as a part of the Department of Forests and Park Services’ and WWF’s survey of Snow Leopard abundance in the park.
According to WWF-US Conservation Scientist Rinjan Shrestha, who has been closely working with WCP on the Snow Leopard survey, this could probably be the first report on the occurrence of Pallas' Cat in the Eastern Himalayas.
In 2004, Tashi Wangchuk, the then head of the Bhutan Museum of Natural History, Ministry of Agriculture, briefly mentioned Pallas Cat in the book Mammals of Bhutan. The book indicated possibilities of the Cat being found in Bhutan between altitudinal ranges of 2,800m to 4,000m in Jigmi Dorji National Park. However, its presence in Bhutan has not been document until now.
The habitats of the Cat, at both sites, are characterized by rolling hills dominated by glacial out-wash and Alpine Steppe vegetation. The Pallas’ Cats were spotted on same locations where other predators such as Snow Leopard, Tibetan wolf and Red fox were found.
Both sites are used as seasonal grazing grounds for yaks from late-spring to mid-autumn (April to November). Of late, the area is visited by cordyceps collectors, especially in April, May and June.
Pallas’ Cats possess behavioural traits that help it survive even in the cold deserts of Central Asia. They are also regarded as a primitive cat that has not changed for 12 million years of feline history of evolution.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has enlisted Red Pallas’ Cat as “Near Threatened” because globally, the population of Pallas’ Cats has been declining and they are disappearing from most of their former ranges around the Caspian Sea and Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. The Cat’s survival is threatened by hunters for its fur and fat and organs for medicinal value.