Four rare felines dubbed the ‘world’s fluffiest cats’ have arrived at Chester Zoo.
It’s the first time carnivore experts at the zoo have ever cared for the animals, known as Pallas’s cats.
The four brothers have arrived in the UK from Krakow Zoo in Poland.
Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals, said: “Pallas’s cats are incredibly furry. Relative to size, they have the densest and longest fur of any cat species – effectively making them the world’s fluffiest cats.
“However, hunting for their beautiful fur is actually something that is contributing to their perilous plight in the wild.
“These cats are very poorly known, declining and, sadly, face an uncertain future.”
Pallas’s cats are rarely seen in their native southern Siberia, Central Asia and China where they are under threat.
The most recent population estimate suggests only around 15,000 remain with conservationists fearing that number is in continuous decline.
As well as hunting, they have been pushed to near-threatened status in the wild by the break-up of their habitat, climate change and the disappearance of one of their preferred prey items the pika (the inspiration for Pikachu), which are poisoned in large numbers as they are viewed as pests.
Mike Jordan, collections director at Chester Zoo, added: “Pallas’s cats have a huge range across Siberia and Asia so it’s a truly shocking statistic that only 15,000 are estimated to remain and as many as 2,000 are being hunted every year.
“Now is the time to secure the Pallas’s cats’ future and prevent it from extinction.
“The arrival of this new quartet at Chester is part of the endangered species breeding programme designed to be an insurance safety-net in the face of continuing decline.
“Zoos, field biologists and scientists are working together to help these wonderful animals through conservation breeding, research, education, fundraising and possible reintroduction to the wild in the long term.”
Chester Zoo’s new quartet – all brothers – were born on July 8, 2017.