This one of the elusive wild cat watching tour is very much an adventure as we visit the vast open wilderness of Mongolia in search of its fabulous small cat. The Felidae family consists of 2 subfamilies, 14 genera, and 41 (IUCN reviewed the taxonomy in 2017) species. The sole member of its genus, the Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul), also called manul, was named after German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas, who first described it in 1776 under the binomial Felis manul. But in 1858, Russian explorer and naturalist Nikolai Severtzov proposed changing the name of the genus to Otocolobus. Its present-day scientific name, Otocolobus, comes from the Greek language and means ‘ugly-eared’. One of 4 species of cats in Mongolia, the Pallas’s cat has a wide, but fragmented distribution in the grasslands and mountain steppes of Central Asia. Therefore, Mongolians say that manuls use dung to hide right in front of the eyes of people when they meet. As a result of its cryptic coloration (i.e., well camouflaged) very little data exists on population trends for the Pallas’s cat in Mongolia and this species may be re-categorized as Threatened under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Criterion A in the future when assessing the species’ population.
Pallas’s cats are well adapted to the cold, arid environment found in the Eastern Steppe Ecosystem of Mongolia. The area where appears to have a very high density of this highly sought after cat. Predominantly crepuscular (active at dusk and dawn), these cats can be active at any time of the day in winter.
Our time will be focused on both birding and mammal watching with a strong focus on trying to see Pallas’s cat. In breeding season, we can see kittens while waiting for their mother to return, learn by playing. They begin to follow their instincts and attempt to playfully catch anything that moves. Also, while we are observing the cat, can hear a female cat calls their kittens after returning from hunting and the kittens respond in the vast steppe.