In an incredible discovery, a team of scientists documented the presence of a rare species of cats on Mount Everest in the Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal.
The 2019 National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition is behind this ground-breaking find.
New report based on scat samplings
The Pallas’s cats, one of the tiniest wild felines in the world, have lived undetected on Mount Everest until 2019.
In a new report posted in Cat News, scientists have demonstrated the first report of Pallas’s cat Otocolobus manul in eastern Nepal based on genetic proof from scat samplings.
The DNA metabarcoding analysis from the collected samples has established that at least two cats live in the area.
The samples for the study were amassed from two locations 6 kilometres apart, one at a 5,110-meter elevation and the other at a 5,190-meter.
Discovery of rare cats on Everest ‘phenomenal’
Based on the new findings, scientists have established that the Pallas’s cat does exist in eastern Nepal. Owing to this discovery, they have now been included in the list of known mammal species in Sagarmatha National Park.
Dr Tracie Seimon of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Zoological Health Program has termed the discovery of this remarkable species on the highest mountain above sea level as “phenomenal”.
She added that the “nearly four-week” quest “was extremely rewarding” for her team and the scientific community as a whole.
She further said that the presence of Pallas’s cat on Everest “illuminates the rich biodiversity” of the remote high-alpine ecosystem.
Dr Anton Seimon, National Geographic Explorer and co-author of the paper, stated, “This is a unique discovery not only in terms of science but also conservation as this population of Pallas’s cat is legally protected under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).”
About the rare cat breed
As per a blog on discoverwildlife.com, the Pallas’s cats are present across the grasslands and montane steppes of Central Asia, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India. Mongolia and Russia make up most of its range today, with Pallas’s cats present at heights up to almost 5,600m.
The species’ flattened ears are shielded from the cold by the same thick fur covering its body. At the same time, its wide paws facilitate protection from and act practically like snowshoes.
The Pallas’s cat can wrap its tail around its body for additional warmth. It has a well-developed nictitating membrane, also known as a third eyelid, that may be used to safeguard the eyes from severe cold and dust storms.
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