The world's fluffiest feline get a first-in-the-world scientific zone where the endangered wildcats will be protected and studied.
The 32 square kilometre site at Sailyugemsky Nature Park in Altai Mountains is seen as a key step in protecting the secretive animal which are known for their expressive faces and adorable looks - although they are far from tame.
Native to remote regions of southern Siberia, as well as Central Asia and China, they are seldom seen, and known for their reclusive and solitary lives.
A recent international conference in Novosibirsk on the Pallas's cat agreed on measures to protect the rare species, and the park's enhanced role in monitoring and observing.
The park - which hosted the conference with representatives from Russia, the US, the UK, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Mongolia and Ukraine - has 15 photo traps geared to watching these animals, and infrastructure which will be used to help their survival.
The wildcat is in the Russian Red Book, although in neighbouring Mongolia it is hunted on with dogs for fur. Researchers believe that this can lead to complete extinction of the Pallas cat population in border areas.
Poachers are also a direct threat to the cat in Russia. Data on the wildcats is incomplete but it is known they live in TransBaikal region, and the republics of Tuva and Altai.
Denis Malikov, deputy director of Sailyugemsky Park said: 'The Pallas' cat is unfairly forgotten in the world although the animal is on the edge of extinction. There are only a handful of researchers studying it in Russia.'
The park is to become a global platform for study of the Pallas' cat, he said. Researcher Alexey Kuzhlekov said: 'We need to estimate the number of Pallas's cats, and study the habitat area.
'The latest data on this species is outdated. It hasn't been updated over the last 3 or 4 decades. We created a database that is also available online. Information about every encounter with the rare cat is uploaded there.'
First estimates of the feline population in Altai will be released in November.
Dr Jim Sanderson, director of the Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation, said: 'Our peers from Russia are doing a great job monitoring felines. All the world knows that this is where the snow leopard lives and that the park is responsible for its protection. The Pallas's cat also needs protection.'
By Olga GertcykWith many thanks to Siberian Times
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