The Cotswold Wildlife Park’s breeding pair of majestic Pallas’s Cats, Tull and Penelope, have produced their first litter at the Park. Their as-yet-unnamed and unsexed kittens (pictured above) are the first Pallas’s Cats to be born at Cotswold Wildlife Park since the species arrived at the collection back in 2010. The new kittens have now left their nest box and visitors can see the youngsters exploring their exhibit opposite the Grey Owls enclosure.
Eight-year-old Tull and six-year-old Penelope were introduced to each other in 2018. Tull arrived from Highland Safari Park in 2015 and Penelope joined him in 2018 from a zoological collection in Italy. Both are part of the European Breeding Programme (EEP) and keepers hoped this shy species would one day produce a litter of their own. In the wild, their breeding season is incredibly short due to the extreme climate in their native range of Central Asia. Oestrus only lasts between 26 and 42 hours, which is considered shorter than many other felids. Births in captivity are considered rare - only four other European zoological collections have successfully bred this enigmatic species in the last 12 months. These new additions are encouraging news for the species. Wild populations are disappearing from much of their former range around the Caspian Sea due to habitat loss, hunting and climate change.
Jamie Craig, Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens, said: “We are delighted that our pair of Pallas's Cats have produced their first litter together. Every birth of this species is an achievement and keepers are very proud watching them grow. This interesting and active species are sadly declining in numbers in their wild habitat and it is great to be contributing to their captive breeding programme".
The Park is home to more than 1,500 animals from 250 different species and the Pallas’s Cats are arguable one of the most elusive animals in the collection. Their shy nature in the wild means there is very little known about these creatures. German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas originally classified the cat as 'Felis manul' in 1776. The word 'manul' has its roots in the Mongolian language. Its current scientific name, Otocolobus manul, comes from the Greek language and can be translated to 'ugly-eared'.
Now in its twentieth year, International Cat Day - a global event held each year on 8 August, aims to raise awareness about cat welfare around the world. Cotswold Wildlife Park home to three rare cat species; Asiatic Lions, Clouded Leopards and Pallas’s Cats. It is committed to the breeding programmes to these endangered animals. The Cotswold Wildlife Park Conservation Trust proudly supports the Pallas’s Cat International Conservation Alliance (PICA) – aiming to improve understanding of the species and enhance global conservation efforts, and the Kope Lion Project which aims to protect Lions and enable lasting co-existence between people and Lions in Northern Tanzania. Their on-the-ground teams aim to stop the killing of Lions, but also retrieve lost livestock, warn herders of Lions’ presence and offer wound treatment to injured livestock.
Photo and video credit: mammal keeper Willem Ijnimg and Stephen Woodham