Cats out of their cradle

Researchers have recorded three species of wild carnivores in Upper Humla in north-west Nepal, marking the first recorded sightings of the species outside the protected areas network in the country. 

Sightings of the Steppe Polecat Mustela eversmanii, Pallas’s Cat Octolobus Manul, and Eurasian Lynx Lynx lynx were documented from the Tibetan plateau of Limi Valley in Upper Humla from July to September 2021, representing the westernmost distribution range of the three species in Nepal.

Scientists from the Himalayan Wolves Project and Resources Himalaya Foundation recorded the sightings during the fieldwork of their research titled, Sustainable ecosystem protection: Conservation of the wildlife communities of Upper Humla through an understanding of wolf behaviour and local communities. Nepal’s Department of Forest and Soil Conservation, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Green Governance Nepal and the Division Forest Office in Humla’s Namkha Rural municipality supported the project.

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While the Steppe Polecat was documented through live observation, records of the Pallas’s Cat and Eurasian Lynx were found through camera-trapping surveys.

The research is the first sighting of the Steppe Polecat since it was recorded as a new species for Nepal in Upper Mustang within the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) in 2014. Furthermore, this is the first live observation of the species, with previous records having been nighttime camera-tracked images. 

The Steppe Polecat is a native species despite Nepal not being included in the IUCN range map of the species. Indeed, its sighting marks the southernmost recording of the mammal in all of Asia.

Meanwhile, three Pallas’s Cat—two adults with a cub— were found during camera-trapping surveys— the first family photo of the species in Nepal. Previous images had only been able to capture single mammals. 

Read also: Rare wild pigeon sighted in Nepal, Kamal Maden

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