‘Original grumpy cat’ found living on Mount Everest
"It is phenomenal to discover proof of this rare and remarkable species at the top of the world."
By Jim Leffman via SWNS
A rare type of feline - dubbed the "original grumpy cat" - has been found living three miles high up Mount Everest.
It is the first time that Pallas's cat has been found on the world's highest mountain, living at 17,000 feet, or five kilometers, above sea level.
The discovery was made along Sagarmatha National Park on Mount Everest’s Southern Flank in Nepal.
Scientists went on a month-long expedition collecting environmental samples from two locations 6 km (3.7 miles) apart at 5,110 and 5,190 m (16,765 and 17,027 ft) or 3.2 miles above sea level.
A DNA analysis of scat recovered from the two sites showed they belonged to Pallas's cat.
It also showed the feline was feeding on pika and mountain weasel, also unknown in the national park which is a World Heritage site.
Dr. Tracie Seimon, of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Zoological Health Program based at the Bronx Zoo in New York, led the expedition in April 2019.
She said: "It is phenomenal to discover proof of this rare and remarkable species at the top of the world.
“The nearly four-week journey was extremely rewarding not just for our team but for the larger scientific community.
"The discovery of Pallas’s cat on Everest illuminates the rich biodiversity of this remote high-alpine ecosystem and extends the known range of this species to eastern Nepal.”
Pallas's cat, also known as the Manul, Steppe Cat or Rock Wildcat, is found in small enclaves across a huge range in from the Caucasus, Iranian Plateau, Hindu Kush, parts of the Himalayas, Tibetan Plateau, Altai-Sayan region and South Siberian Mountains.
It is classed as near threatened as its number seem to be decreasing.
Dr. Seimon's husband and National Geographic Explorer and co-author of the paper, Dr. Anton Seimon, added: "This is a unique discovery not only in terms of science but also conservation as this population of Pallas’s cat is legally protected under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
“We hope that the confirmation of this new charismatic species will raise awareness of and education about the diversity of species at this iconic World Heritage Site.”
The study, published in the journal Cat, came as a result of the 2019 National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition.
The number of tourists visiting Sagarmatha National Park and Mount Everest has been dramatically increasing, from just a few thousand in the 1970s to over 50,000 in 2019.
It is notable that Pallas’s cat went undetected in this park until 2019, and the new study demonstrates how conservation genetics and environmental sampling can be utilized as a powerful approach to discover and study cryptic and elusive species like Pallas’s cat.
Future research combining camera trap surveys and the collection of additional scat samples would help to better define the Pallas’s cat population, range, density, and their diet in Sagarmatha National Park.
Vice President of Science and Innovation Programs at National Geographic Society Nicole Alexiev said: “The groundbreaking 2019 Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition continues to be extremely valuable to better understand the most iconic environment on our planet.
“These results are a perfect illustration of why this work is important and a cornerstone of our partnership with Rolex to study and explore Earth’s critical life support systems.”
Team members from eight countries included 17 Nepalese researchers conducted the research in five areas of science that are critical to understanding environmental changes and their impacts: biology, glaciology, meteorology, geology and mapping.
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