Scientific finding marks the first documented discovery of Pallas’s Cat on Mt. Everest

At least two individuals of the Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul) live in Sagarmatha National Park, Mount Everest region, eastern Nepal, according to a genetic analysis by Dr. Tracie Seimon of Wildlife Conservation Society’s Zoological Health Program, based at the Bronx Zoo, and colleagues. 

The team’s findings extend the range of the Pallas’s cat into eastern Nepal and add a new species to the list of known mammals in Sagarmatha National Park.

The Pallas’s cat is a species of small wild cat with thick, soft fur and an abundant dark, woolly underfur.

Also known as the manul, the species was first described in 1776 by the Prussian zoologist and botanist Peter Simon Pallas.

The Pallas’s cat occurs in Central Asia, from the Caspian Sea through Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India to central China, Mongolia and Siberia.

The animal’s rounded ears are set low on the sides of the head. Its head-and-body length ranges from 46 to 65 cm with a 21- to 31-cm-long bushy tail. Its pupils are rounded, a unique feature among the subfamily Felinae.

“It is phenomenal to discover proof of this rare and remarkable species at the top of the world,” Dr. Seimon said.

“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.”

For their study, Dr. Seimon and co-authors collected scat samples from two locations 6 km apart at 5,110 and 5,190 m elevation above sea level along Sagarmatha National Park on Mount Everest’s Southern Flank.

The DNA metabarcoding analysis of the samples confirmed two Pallas’s cats inhabit Mount Everest and overlap in territory with the red fox (Vulpes vulpes).

The researchers also found evidence of pika and mountain weasel DNA in the samples, an important food source for Pallas’s cat.

The findings add a new species to the list of known mammals in Sagarmatha National Park, a heavily visited and protected World Heritage site.

“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 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),” said National Geographic Explorer Dr. Anton Seimon.

“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 groundbreaking 2019 Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition continues to be extremely valuable to better understand the most iconic environment on our planet,” said Nicole Alexiev, Vice President of Science and Innovation Programs at National Geographic Society.

“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.”


T.A. Seimon et al. 2022. First report of Pallas’s cat in Sagarmatha National Park — Mount Everest Region, Nepal. Cat News 76