Vincent Munier

PICA (Pallas’s cat International Conservation Alliance)

- 6th Jul, 2023

The Pallas’s cat, or manul, is a small and elusive cat that occurs throughout the mountain steppes and grasslands of Central Asia. Despite its wide distribution, much of which is shared with its more famous cousin the snow leopard, the Pallas’s cat is rarely seen, poorly known and has received very little conservation attention to date. In 2016 a collaboration for conservation was formed, aimed at shining the spotlight at this charismatic and yet often overlooked cat.

The Pallas’s Cat International Conservation Alliance (PICA) is the first and only project dedicated to Pallas’s cat conservation on a global scale. Established in a partnership between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Nordens Ark, Snow Leopard Trust and Fondation Segré, its goal was conservation of the Pallas’s cat through capacity building, research, raising awareness and strategic planning. A key output of the first phase of the project was the delivery of the first ever Status Review and Conservation Strategy for the species.

PICA2 (2019-2022) was an extension of the original project, aimed at advancing conservation action for the species and building further capacity through implementation of the Conservation Strategy and supporting the global network of the Manul Working Group (MWG).

Built on a multi-functional approach to conservation and fostering collaborative approaches, the project’s main achievements include further development of the MWG, supporting field projects addressing urgent conservation needs of the Pallas’s cat, publication of an extensive guideline enabling practitioners to effectively monitor wild populations, delivery of educational materials in 14 range country languages, and progress made towards inclusion of the Pallas’s cat under Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).

With capacity building at the core of its mission, the project also strived to connect ex-situ and in-situ Pallas’s cat conservation. To that end, PICA created a strong network made up of zoological institutions within BIAZA and worldwide and connected  them with conservation efforts for the species in the wild, most notably through the Small Grant Programme that awarded funds received from supporting zoos directly to field projects across the species’ range.

The PICA project is an example of a successful collaboration for conservation that demonstrated how, using species in our care as ‘ambassadors’, expertise and resources from zoological community can make a direct impact on conservation efforts in the wild. The work of PICA has been instrumental in raising the profile of Pallas’s cat and enhancing the collaborative and global conservation efforts for the species.

RZSS submitted this project to the BIAZA Awards Professional Capacity Building category for 2023 and won a Silver award.

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