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Camera Traps Show First Evidence of Pallas's Cat in Bhutan

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Oct 30, 2012 08:38 AM EDT

An elusive Pallas's cat has been captured on camera for the first time in Bhutan's Wangchuck Centennial Park (WCP), according to reports from the World Wildlife Fund.

Camera traps took the images of the thick-furred Pallas's cat (see photo), a primitive species that has changed little in the last five million years.

The near threatened species is also known as manul, which is described as having a flat head with high-set eyes and low-set ears. This allows the species to look closely over rocky ledges to find its prey. The cats also have a thick coat that enables them to keep warm at high altitudes, reported LiveScience.

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The images are the first photographic evidence of the species in WCP, which is also home to snow leopards and the Himalayan black bear.

The cameras were set up, from November last year to early June this year, for the WWF officials to survey snow leopards in the region. They captured the first image of the cat in January, the second in February and then in April. In one of the close-up images, the cat appears to stare directly at the camera.

"This is an exciting and remarkable discovery that proves that the Pallas's cat exists in the Eastern Himalayas," said Rinjan Shrestha, conservation scientist with WWF, in a press statement.

"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", he said.

Pallas's cats are distributed in the grasslands and steppe vegetation of Central Asia. They are found in places including the Caspian Sea region, Mongolia, China, Pakistan's Baluchistan province and Afghanistan.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has placed the species in the near threatened list, as the cats are facing a significant decline in their population. They are poached for their fur as well as their organs, which are believed to have medicinal properties, said conservationists.

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