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A Manul cat injured by a hawk was healed and released in Tuva

A Manul cat injured by a hawk was healed and released in TuvaLast August, Kyzyl residents Eres and Natalia Dambar-ool became witnesses of a tragedy which clearly demonstrated the brutality of the law of survival among the denizens of wild nature.

The family was traveling towards Shagonar. Suddenly they both noticed that a raptor bird nearby was shaking something viciously.  As they got out of the car, the bird flew away, abandoning its prey. Eres and Natalia approached closer and found out that the bird’s victim was a tiny manul kitten. (Manul cat, Pallas’s cat, Otocolobus manul, Felis manul). The Dambar-ool family did not think of leaving him there in such a condition, and decided to save the mangled kitten and bring it with them.

It has to be pointed out that manul in natural surroundings is very aggressive. Regardless of its external appearance, in which it resembles a domestic cat, it is very different in character and behavior, which is remarkably wild, brave and fierce. It was not by chance that the little kitten survived its stay in the raptor’s claws; he put up a desperate defense with all his innate ferocity. Not many people would think of approaching him, but the kitten was so weakened that he did not represent a danger for his rescuers.

The travelers took the little animal to the veterinary hospital, and then they called the “Ubsunur depression” nature preserve. The deputy director in science, Sergei Sapelkin, took over further care for the little steppe animal.

The injured baby animal was in a very serious condition – he had lacerations of skin over his throat, tail fracture, and many large scrapes and gouges all over his body from the raptor’s claws. Sergei Valentinovich treated the tiny manul with antibiotic injections. And when he got better, he was taken to the nature preserve.

This animal is listed in the Red Book of RF, and is under special protection of the state; it is forbidden to keep one at home. Yes, and it may even be dangerous because its behavior is unpredictable – the animal is a loner, and does not submit to anybody. The manul moves with astonishing speed of lightning, lightly and gracefully; he comes out to hunt at dusk. Even feeding a caged manul may be problematic, because he simply does not allow anyone to approach. He had to be fed only with meat of wild animals, so that he would not become accustomed to other food. It was quite a lot of work.

Nevertheless, the staff of the preserve found a way to approach him. The little manul’s injuries healed completely in their care. On September 28, after a two-month stay in captivity, he was released in approximately the same area of the steppe where the battle of the two predators took place. The trip in a closed crate was difficult for the manul. The crowd of people who gathered to witness this rare event produced stress in the small cat. For that reason the little animal would not come out of the wooden crate, which was made especially for him.

By that time, according to evaluation by specialists, the little manul was about 6-7 months old. That is very young for a wild animal, and the preserve workers had serious doubts about his ability to adjust to life in the wild nature, to get his own nourishment. It was a difficult decision – it was absolutely necessary to release him back to the wild, otherwise he would totally forget how to take care of himself. But freedom was the most important thing for the little guy.

Now he lives in his natural environment. We have to hope that the mangled manul has not lost his hunting instincts and will be able to survive independently.

Tuva differs from other regions of this predator’s range in that the population numbers are relatively high – about1500 individuals. He is listed in the Red Book of RF as rare, and in the Red Book of RT as a recovering species. Manuls are nature’s sanitation – workers, preying on sick and weakened animals, regulation the populations. This small cat has many natural enemies, mainly the larger predator. Young kittens are often killed by herders’ dogs. But the greatest menace for manul is people.  The durable, beautiful hide with sumptuous fur is very much in demand, which is an incentive to poaching. That is why the workers of the nature preserve are very grateful to the Dambar-ool family for their act of kindness.

The manul is not the only animal that needed to be rescued by our collective. The last summer they also took care of a baloban falcon, also a Red Book bird. This species of falcon is very highly prized by hawking hunting enthusiasts; it is possible that this one survived attempted capture by poachers, who take orders to catch these rare birds from foreign countries, fox example from the Arab Emirates. This falcon was found near the road to lake Tere-Khol; he could not fly because of wing injury. People passing by picked him up and delivered him to the Erzin office of the nature preserve. The falcon has also been released near to the original location where he was discovered.

People who rescued these animals from certain death are truly good people. They are not indifferent to the fates of living creatures who got into trouble. Had these animals fallen into some other hands, they would never get back to their native places. Great “thank you” to these true protectors of nature.

Dolaana Mongush, press-service of “Ubsunur depression” nature preserve, translated by Heda Jindrak
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