Elusive cat species with grumpy face roamed Mount Everest slopes in secret — until now

Isolated by the rocky slopes and unforgiving cold, these thick-furred felines roamed Mount Everest in secret — until now.

Researchers were exploring the southern slopes of Mount Everest in Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal, according to a Jan. 26 news release from the Wildlife Conservation Society. At two locations — one just over 16,700 feet above sea level and the other just over 17,000 feet above sea level — the scientists found cat poop.

DNA analysis of the droppings confirmed the presence of two Pallas’s cats, researchers said.

Pallas’s cats, also known as Otocolobus manul or just Manul, are a rare and elusive feline species, according to the International Society for Endangered Cats in Canada. The small species lives in cold climates in central Asia and is known for its perpetually grumpy-looking face.

Poop left by the Pallas’s cats.
Poop left by the Pallas’s cats.

This is the first time the “cryptic” Pallas’s cats have been found on Mount Everest.

“It is phenomenal to discover proof of this rare and remarkable species at the top of the world,” Tracie Seimon of the Wildlife Conservation Society, who co-led the team that made the discovery, said in the release.

“This is a unique discovery,” Anton Seimon, a National Geographic Explorer, said in the release. “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 area where researchers found evidence of the cat species.
The area where researchers found evidence of the cat species.

Nepal’s Sagarmatha National Park has attracted an increasing number of tourists since the 1970s, per the release. Despite the influx of people, the Pallas’s cat remained undetected until 2019 when researchers first collected the droppings.

The research in Nepal was part of the 2019 National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition. The discovery was documented in a new study published in Cat News.

Sagarmatha National Park is about 85 miles northeast of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, and along the Nepal-China border.

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