Highlands & Islands

Scots and Iranians in effort to uncover rare cats' secrets

Pallas's cat Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Pallas's cats are found in remote areas of the Middle East and Asia

Wild cat experts from Scotland are working with counterparts in the Middle East to better understand one of the world's rarest and most elusive cats.

Pallas's cats are found in Iran, Mongolia and China.

David Barclay, of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), has been in contact with a researcher in Iran since 2013.

In a new development, an abandoned Pallas's cat kitten could be radio-collared for the first time in Iran.

Efforts to capture images of the animals in Iran using camera traps have been unsuccessful so far.

Mr Barclay said putting a radio collar on a young cat and releasing it back into the wild could help uncover new information on the cats.

He said: "Should this happen we will be in a position to offer financial support and gain a valuable insight into the behaviour and ecology of Pallas's cats in their western range."

Image copyright M.Farhadinia
Image caption A young cat could be radio-collared to help better understand the cats' behaviour

RZSS is also supporting a new Pallas's cat research project in the central Alborz Mountains of Iran.

Mr Barclay said: "It is clear that interest in the species is growing not just in range countries but throughout the zoo world.

"It is an exciting time for Pallas's cats and as long as I am breathing I will continue to support the conservation and research efforts and wave the Pallas's cat flag."

RZSS has Pallas's cats in its collection at its Highland Wildlife Park at Kincraig near Aviemore.

They are also known as Manul, steppe and rock wildcat.

They are classed as "near-threatened", according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

The break up of their habitats are one of the biggest threats to the species.

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