Family: Felids (Felidae)
Habitat: mountain forests of Altai, the Far East.
Among pets only few species had gone through disappearance of mankind. Selecting breeds of various domestic animals, people had changed their physiology and behaviour so deep, that many breeds appeared as a result of domestication were completely unable to exist independently. But nevertheless there were the exceptions – primitive breeds of domestic animals ran wild easily. Also the process of adaptation to wild life passed successfully in conditions of isolation and absence of predators – strange sheep descendants in New Zealand have appeared this way. But domestic cat (Felis cattus) appeared the champion in adaptation to life in a nature, and people did not manage to subordinate it to their will completely. Descendants of domestic cats live on various continents and islands. At the territory of Central and Eastern Asia extensive mountain areas are inhabited by one of such species – menkw*, the universal predator, the expert in survival in mountain forests.
In its ecology menkw is the analogue of leopard, but in shape it resembles lion a little. The basic colouring of this animal is brown with a pattern of spots and cross strips on paws and tail. The wool on trunk is almost monophonic, pattern of vertical strips is present only at kittens to the age of about one year, and completely vanishes during an autumn fall-off. Male of this species is larger than female and has short small mane covering nape, neck and forward part of breast. In autumn animals change wool to winter fur, longer and lighter in color.
The length of menkw body from head up to a tail is about 140 cm; tail is 90 – 100 cm long. Weight of adult individual may reach 75 kg, mature males frequently weigh over 80 kg. This predator hunts any animals it can catch, from a rat up to boar in size. This animal usually hunts from an ambush, suiting it near tracks of herbivores in bushes or behind the fallen tree. This predator frequently jumps on prey from tree, choosing for ambush thick branch among foliage. This predator kills prey by strong bite in throat, simultaneously throttling it and biting through blood vessels of neck by canines.
This species is territorial; adult male occupies territory measuring over 60 square kilometers. In male territory up to 5 females – its harem – and posterity up to one and half years old live. Each morning male declares its rights to the territory with loud call. It has no constant shelter and within several days walks riond its territory, renewing border marks. For this purpose it tears bark on trees and also waters it with urine. Nevertheless, these animals are rather tolerant to each other: the meeting of two males out of breeding season is usually finished only in force demonstrations. Males rear wool and yell loudly, trying to impress the opponent, but enter fight seldom.
Pairing at menkw takes place in winter or in early spring. At this time boundary skirmishes between males become more often and the number of fights grows. They frequently come to an end with ragged ears and scars on shoulders. In especially severe duels one of males can even receive fatal traumas. Pregnancy of female lasts till 90 – 100 days; usually 3 – 4 kittens are born. For delivery female chooses reliable shelter, as a rule, a tree trunk rotten out from within or a cave. She feeds cubs with milk within 2 months. Kittens are born blind and open eyes at the age of 3 weeks. The young growth of this species differs from adult individuals with visible vertical strips on sides which vanish with the years. They are independent at the age of 5 months and reach sexual maturity at two-year-old age. With approach of this age females join the next groups of menkws, and males should win territory and females to themselves, or wander on boundary territories of stronger males. Life expectancy is about 35 years.
* Menkw is a forest goblin in mythology of Siberian folks.
This species of mammals was discovered by Nick, the forum member.
Original drawing by Amplion