Other Names
Pallas's cat (English)
chat manul (French)
Manul (German)
gato manul, gato de Pallas (Spanish)
yalami (Bashkir)
malem (Bukharian)
tu sun, wulun, manao, yang shihli (Chinese)
psk kuhey (Dari: Afghanistan)
malin (Kazakhstan, Mongolia)
madail (Kyrgyzstan)
ribilik (Ladakh, Ustyurt region)
manul (Russia)
  • Description and Behavior

  • Biology

  • Habitat and Distribution

  • Population Status

  • Protection Status

  • Principal Threats

  • References

  • sabanchi (Smirech'e and Kazakh)
    mana (Soyot)
    molun (Uygur)
    malin, dala mushugi (Uzbek)

    Description and Behavior
    Peter Pallas, who first described the manul, erroneously suggested that it was the ancestor of the long-haired Persian breeds of domestic cat, because of its long fur, stocky build and flattened face. The hair on its underparts and tail is nearly twice as long as on the top and sides (Gao et al. 1987). Like the snow leopard, this presumably helps keep the animal warm when it hunts on snow, cold rock or frozen ground (A. Abdukadir in litt. 1993). The background color of its fur varies from grey in the north of its range to fox-red in some parts of the south (Ognev 1935, Pocock 1951, Roberts 1977), although greyish animals are also found in the south (Heptner and Sludskii 1972). The hairs have white tips, producing a silvery, frosted appearance in all but the reddest specimens. The body is compact, with short legs marked with indistinct black bands, and a thick, short, black-tipped tail (about 45% of head-body length). Weight ranges from 2-4.5 kg (Pocock 1939a, Heptner and Sludskii 1972, Gao et al. 1987). The forehead is patterned with small black spots. Its ears are small and rounded and set low on the sides of the head. The auditory bullae are enlarged, similar to those of the sand cat (Pocock 1951, Heptner and Sludskii 1972). The barking call of the manul is similar also to that of the sand cat (Heptner and Sludskii 1972) and, likewise, the low profile of its head is an adaptation to hunting in open country where there is little cover (Pocock 1907b).

    In the Lake Baikal region, analysis of 502 scats found pikas to form the major part of the manulís prey (89%), with small rodents also frequently taken (44%). Other prey included susliks (3%), birds (2%) and insectivores (1%) (Fetisov 1937). Bannikov (1954) reported that one catís stomach from Mongolia contained the remains of 16 voles; another contained two pikas, one vole and a hamster. Pikas and small rodents were also reported to be the major prey in Ladakh (Stockley 1936) and China (Feng et al. 1986, Gao et al. 1987, Anon. 1987a, Cai et al. 1989a). One cat in Baluchistan, Pakistan, was found feeding on chukor partridge (Roberts 1977). Manuls are generally crepuscular, being most frequently encountered at dusk or in early morning, but are occasionally seen at mid-day (Heptner and Sludskii 1972). They den in small caves and rock crevices, and may take refuge in the burrows of other animals such as marmots, foxes and badgers (Bannikov 1954, Y. Ma pers. comm. 1992). Heptner and Sludskii (1972) reported that tame manuls hunting for rodents caught not only animals running on the surface, but also successfully ambushed them by hiding near exits of burrows, using their paws to fish out the inhabitants when the holes were shallow enough.

    Reproductive season (C & W): Most litters born Apr-May (Fetisov 1937, Bannikov 1954, B. Tan in litt. 1991)

    Estrus (C): 26-42 hours (n=1: Schauenberg 1978) -- 5 days (n=2: Mellen 1989)

    Estrus cycle (C): 46 days (n=1: Mellen 1989)

    Gestation (C): 66-67 days (n=2: Mellen 1989); 74-75 days (n=1: Schauenberg 1978)

    Litter size (C,W): 3.57 ± 0.53 (n=7: Mellen 1989); range up to six or eight (Heptner and Sludskii 1972)

    Age at sexual maturity (C): females - one year (Mellen 1989)

    Longevity (C): up to 11.5 years (Jones 1977)

    Habitat and Distribution
    The manul is adapted to cold arid environments and has a wide distribution through Central Asia (Figure 3), but is relatively specialized in its habitat requirements. It is found in stony alpine desert and grassland habitats, but is generally absent from lowland sandy desert basins (Bannikov 1954; E. Matjuschkin in litt. 1993), although it may penetrate these areas along river courses (Ognev 1935): i.e., it has been recorded from the Dzungarian Basin and Takla Makan Desert in Xinjiang, China (A. Abdukadir in litt. 1993). The small southern populations in Baluchistan, isolated from the main population, occur in montane juniper steppe (Roberts 1977). The manulís range ends in the north where the steppes meet coniferous taiga forest (Bannikov 1954). It has been found at altitudes up to 4,800 m (Feng et al. 1986), but it does not occur at such high elevations as the snow leopard, and is more strongly associated with flat, rolling steppe and south-facing slopes where deep snow cover does not accumulate. Exposed rock outcrops or expanses of talus are a strong characteristic of its habitat (Heptner and Sludskii 1972). Manuls have been collected from the fringes of cultivated areas in Chinaís Qinghai province (Cai et al. 1989a).

    Population Status
    Global: Category 4
    Regional (Asia): Category 2
    IUCN: Insufficiently known

    The manul has been described as most abundant on the cold grasslands of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia (Mallon 1985, Feng et al. 1986, Y. Ma pers. comm. 1992). On the Tibetan Plateau, it occurs widely but is nowhere common (G. Schaller in litt. 1993), as most of the region lies above 4,500 m in elevation. Elsewhere, the species is considered vulnerable to rare and uncommon: Afghanistan (Habibi 1977), Lakdakh, India (Mallon 1991), and Pakistan, especially the small, isolated populations found in Baluchistan (Roberts 1977). In particular, the manul has disappeared in recent years from much of the Caspian region (Bannikov and Sokolov 1984, Belousova 1993). Y. Ma (pers. comm. 1992) reports that it has been eliminated from the easternmost parts of its range in China due to hunting.

    Protection Status
    Protection Status: CITES Appendix II

    National Legislation:
    Lacking information

    Hunting prohibited:
    Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

    No information:
    Afghanistan, Georgia, Tajikistan
    (Nichols et al. 1991, Belousova 1993, IUCN Envl. Law Ctr. in litt. 1994)

    Principal Threats
    Although there has been little recent international trade, the manul has long been hunted for its fur in relatively large numbers. Western Chinaís annual harvest (excluding Inner Mongolia and Manchuria) in the early 1950s was of the order of 10,000 (Tan 1984). Annual take in Mongolia in the early 1900s was reportedly as high as 50,000 skins (Heptner and Sludskii 1972). Between 1958-68, harvests averaged 6,500 animals (Mallon 1985). In the mid-1970s, annual harvest in Afghanistan was estimated to be 7,000 (Rodenburg 1977). Harvests in the former Soviet Union declined in the 1970s, suggesting a decrease in abundance (Bannikov and Sokolov 1984). Harvests also declined in China in the 1970s-1980s prior to extension of legal protection to the species (Tan 1984). Mongolia was the primary exporter of manul pelts in the 1980s, with 9,185 exported in 1987, but hunting was prohibited in 1988, and exports have essentially ceased (WCMC unpubl. data).

    Poisoning to control pika populations has taken place on a large scale in parts of the Russian Federation (south-west Transbaikalia, Tuvinskaya, Altai Mountains), where they are considered to be vectors for plague, and parts of China (Qinghai, Gansu and Inner Mongolia), where they are considered to compete with domestic stock for graze (Smith et al. 1990).

    © 1996 IUCN - The World Conservation Union