Otocolobus manul


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Otocolobus manul
Species Authority: (Pallas, 1776)
Common Name/s:
English Pallas's Cat, Manul
French Chat Manul
Spanish Gato De Pallas, Gato Manul
Taxonomic Notes: While retaining the monotypic genus Otocolobus, Eizirik et al. (submitted) placed it with the genera Felis and Prionailurus in the tribe Felini because of a close phylogenetic relationship. O'Brien and Johnson (2007) estimated that Otocolobus manul diverged from a leopard cat ancestor approximately 5.19 million years ago.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Ross, S., Murdoch, J., Mallon, D., Sanderson, J. & Barashkova, A.
Reviewer/s: Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Pallas Cats have a broad but patchy distribution in the grasslands and montane steppe of Central Asia. They are negatively impacted by habitat degradation, prey base decline, and hunting. While the threat of habitat degradation had declined in Russia during the 1990s (Barashkova et al. 2007), but is increasing again with an improving economy (A. Barashkova pers. comm. 2008). The species could qualify as Vulnerable under criterion A4 in the near future (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop 2007).
2002 Near Threatened
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
1994 Insufficiently Known (Groombridge 1994)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Pallas cat occurs primarily in the central Asian steppe grassland regions of Mongolia, China and the Tibetan Plateau, where an elevational record of 5,050 m was reported (Fox and Dorji 2007). In Russia, Pallas's cat occurs sporadically in the Transcaucasus and Transbaikal regions, along the border with north-eastern Kazakhstan, and along the border with Mongolia and China in the Altai, Tyva, Buryatia, and Chita republics (Koshkarev 1998, Anon. 2008). They are widely distributed in areas of uplands and intermountain depressions as well as mountain steppe in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan (Anon. 2008). Populations in the southwest of its range (the Caspian Sea region, and Afghanistan and Pakistan) are diminishing, isolated and sparse (Belousova 1993, Nowell and Jackson 1996, Habibi 2004, Anon. 2008)
Afghanistan; Armenia (Armenia); Azerbaijan; China (Beijing, Nei Mongol, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Tibet [or Xizang], Xinjiang); India (Jammu-Kashmir); Iran, Islamic Republic of; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Mongolia; Pakistan; Russian Federation (Altay, Buryatiya, Chita, Tuva); Tajikistan; Turkmenistan; Uzbekistan
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Mongolia is probably the stronghold of Pallas's cat. In the steppe grasslands of central Mongolia, Ross et al. (2007) radio-collared 27 cats, and estimated density (optimistically) at 7.5 +/- 2 manuls/ 100 km².

Across the Tibetan plateau, Pallas's cat is considered widespread but nowhere very common (Nowell and Jackson 1996). The species is considered rare and uncommon in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (Ladakh) and Iran (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Habibi 2004), and has disappeared from much of its former range around the Caspian Sea (Belousova 1993) and Pakistan's Balochistan province (Husain 2001). Populations are small and threatened in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia's Krasnoyarsk region and Turkmenistan (Anon. 2008).

In Russia, the Tyva and Chita regions may have the largest populations, estimated at 2,000-2,200 and 2,100-3,000, respectively. Populations in Altai and Buryatia republics were estimated at 450-550 and 250-350 (Barashkova et al. 2007).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Typical habitat for the Pallas cat is characterized by an extreme continental climate - little rainfall, low humidity, and a wide range of temperatures. They are rarely found in areas where the maximum mean ten-day snow cover depth exceeds 10 cm, and a continuous snow cover of 15-20 cm marks the ecological limit for this species (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). They are generally associated with grass and shrub steppe, and much of their habitat is montane. They are absent from lowland sandy desert basins, although may penetrate these areas along seasonal river courses (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

In the grass and shrub steppe of central Mongolia, annual home ranges were found to be strikingly large for a small felid, although it is not clear if such large ranges are typical for the species (Brown et al. 2003). Ongoing research there (S. Ross pers. comm. 2008) measured home ranges as follows:
Female = 100% MCP = 50.8 +/- 43.0 km², 95% MCP = 27.1 +/- 23.6 km²; n = 10
Male = 100% MCP = 158.5 +/- 179.2 km², 95% MCP = 100.4 +/- 101.2 km² n = 8
During the study Pallas cats were found to have a strong association with rocky, steep areas and were rarely found in open grasslands (where they may be more vulnerable to predation by sympatric carnivores: S. Ross pers. comm.. 2008).

Preliminary results based on radio-tracking of Pallas cats in Daursky state nature reserve (Chita region of Russia) shows that annual home range varies from 5 to 30 km² (n=3) (Kiriliuk et al. 2008 via pers. comm. A Barashkova 2008).

In China, Pallas cats feed predominately on pikas (Ochotona), small rodents (Alticola, Meriones, Cricetulus), birds (partridge-Pyrrhocorax), hares (Lepus) and marmots (Marmota), and appear to be most numerous where pikas and voles are abundant and not living under deep snow cover (Wozencraft et al. in press). In Mongolia, preliminary analysis of scats indicated that gerbils (Meriones spp) and jerboas (Dipus sagitta and Allactaga spp) were the main prey, wih lambs of the Argali sheep (Ovis ammon) taken during the spring (Murdoch et al. 2006). Populations may fluctate widely with their small mamal prey base (Purevsuren 2004). Activity is predominantly crepuscular, although they can be active at any time (S. Ross pers comm. 2008).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The most serious threat may be depletion of their prey base through poisoning and over-hunting. Poisoning to control pika and marmot populations has taken place on a large scale in Central Asia where they are considered to be vectors for bubonic plague, and western and northern China where they are considered to compete with domestic stock for graze (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Their habitat is being widely degraded by domestic livestock and agriculture (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop, 2007). While livestock had decreased during the 1990s in Russia and is believed to have led to improving status of Pallas cats in Russia (Barashkova et al. 2007), livestock is now spreading back across steppe areas with an improving economy, again posing a threat to the species. Mining is also on the increase in Pallas cat habitat in Russia and other parts of Central Asia. In Russia Pallas?s cat range is still quite fragmented and there is high level of risk to loss many subpopulations, especially in Buryatia Republic (A. Barashkova pers. comm. 2008).

The manul has long been hunted for its fur in relatively large numbers in Mongolia, Russia and China, although international trade in manul pelts has largely ceased since the late 1980s (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Mongolia is the only range state which permits hunting of Pallas cats for "household purposes." The permitting system is ineffective, and Pallas cat furs are illegally exported to China (Murdoch et al. 2006). Wingard and Zahler (2006) estimate that there are approximately 1,000 hunters of Pallas's cats in Mongolia, with a mean estimated harvest of two cats per year. Pallas cats are also shot because they can be mistaken for marmots, which are commonly hunted, and trapped incidentally in leghold traps set for wolves and foxes and snares set for marmot and hares (S. Ross pers. comm. 2008) Their fat and organs are used as medicine in Mongolia and Russia, and they are killed by domestic dogs (IUCN Cats Red List workshop, 2007 and A. Barashkova pers. comm. 2008).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Listed under CITES Appendix II (as Felis manul). Hunting of this species is prohibited in all range countries except Mongolia (Nowell and Jackson 1996), where it has no legal protection despite being classified as Near Threatened in the country (Wingard and Zahler 2006). Trophy hunters can purchase a hunting license to export trophies, from which $70 USD is allocated to the government (Mongolia Mammal Assessment, 2006). While Mongolia has not recorded any trophy exports, skin exports have grown since 2000, with 143 reported exported in 2007 (UNEP-WCMC Cites trade database, 2008).

Approximately 12% of the species? range in Mongolia occurs within protected areas (Mongolia Mammal Assessment, 2006), although Murdoch et al. (2007) found that the manul's preferred steppe-shrub habitat was under-represented in an important protected area in central Mongolia (the Ikh Nartiin Chuluun Nature Reserve), and that illegal hunting inside the protected area was frequent.

In Russia, about 6% of the species' range is protected, as follows: about 1% of it is situated the state nature reserves: "Altaisky" (Altai Republic), "Sayano-Shushensky" (Krasnoyarsk region), "Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina" (Tyva Republic), "Daursky" and "Sokhodinsky" (Chita RegionHowever, only the Tyvan and Daursky state reserv protect significant habitat. About 4% of Pallas' Cat area is situated in the national parks: "Tunkinsky" (Buryatia Republic) and "Alkhanai" (Aginsky Buryatsky autonomus region, which will belong to Chita Region soon). About 0.5% of area is situated in federal wildlife refuges: "Altacheisky" (Buryatia Republic) and partly "Tsasucheisky Bor" (Chita Region). Buryatia Republic also has regional protected areas where llas cats are found (Barashkova et al. 2007).

In China it is reported from the following nature reserves: Xuelingyunshan, Tuomuerfeng, Luoshan, Baijitan, Qinghaihuniaodao, Wanglang. Wolong, Zhumulangmafeng, Kalamailishan, Qitaihuangmobanhuangmo, Aerjinshan, Ganjiahu (Xinjiang), Luobupoyeluotuo (China Species Information Service 2008).

Since 2009 this species is now a legally protected species in Afghanistan, banning all hunting and trade in its parts within the country.

Bibliography [top]

Anonymous. 2008. Pallas Cat study and conservation program. Novosibirsk Available at:

Barashkova, A., Smelansky, I., Goryunova, S. and Naidenko, S. 2007. PALLAS CAT: INVESTIGATION FOR SAVING (Clarifying Conservation Status in Russia). Siberian Environmental Center, Novosibirsk, Russia.

Belousova, A. V. 1993. Small Felidae of Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Far East. Survey of the state of populations. Lutreola 2: 16.

Brown, M., Lappin, M. R., Brown, J. L., Munkhtsog, B. M. and Swanson, W. F. 2003. Pallas's cat in Mongolia. Cat News 38: 28-29.

China Species Information Service. 2008. Otocolobus manul. Available at:

Eizirik, E., Johnson, W. E. and O'Brien, S. J. Submitted. Molecular systematics and revised classification of the family Felidae (Mammalia, Carnivora). Journal of Mammalogy.

Fox, J. L. and Dorji, T. 2007. High elevation record for occurrence of the manul or Pallas cat on the northwestern Tibetan plateau, China. Cat News 46: 35.

Habibi, K. 2003. Mammals of Afghanistan. Zoo Outreach Organisation/ USFWS, Coimbatore, India.

Hussain, T. 2001. Survey for the Asiatic cheetah in Balochistan province, Pakistan. Final report to CAT and the Barbara Delano Foundation.

IUCN. 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

Koshkarev, E. 1998. Discovery of manul in eastern Sayan. Cat News 29: 12-13.

Murdoch, J. D., Munkhzul, T. and Reading, R. P. 2006. Pallas' cat ecology and conservation in the semi-desert steppes of Mongolia. Cat News 45: 18-19.

Murdoch, J. D., Munkhzul, T. and Sillero-Zubiri, C. 2007. Do nature reserves adequately protect Pallas' cats in central Mongolia? In: J. Hughes and R. Mercer (eds), Felid biology and conservation conference 17-20 September: Abstracts, pp. 123. WildCRU, Oxford.

Nowell, K. and Jackson, P. 1996. Wild Cats. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

O'Brien, S. J. and Johnson, W. E. 2007. The evolution of cats. Scientific American July: 68-75.

Purevsuren, S. 2004. Ecology and Biology of Felis manul in central Mongolia. National University of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar.

Ross, S., Harris, S. and Munkhtsog, B. 2007. The spatial ecology and conservation of Pallas cat (Otocolobus manul) in central Mongolia. In: J. Hughes and R. Mercer (eds), Felid biology and conservation conference 17-20 September: Abstracts, pp. 59. WildCRU, Oxford, UK.

Sunquist, M. and Sunquist, F. 2002. Wild Cats of the World. University of Chicago Press.

Wingard, J. R. and Zahler, P. 2006. Silent Steppe: The Illegal Wildlife Trade Crisis in Mongolia. Mongolia Discussion Papers. World Bank, East Asia and Pacific Environment and Social Development Department, Washington, DC, USA.

Wozencraft, W.C. 2008. Order Carnivora. In: Smith, A.T. and Xie, Y. (eds), A Guide to the Mammals of China, pp. 576. Princeton University Press.

Citation: Ross, S., Murdoch, J., Mallon, D., Sanderson, J. & Barashkova, A. 2008. Otocolobus manul. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 17 April 2014.
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