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BLOOMINGTON — As part of a Miller Park Zoo species survival breeding program, Mischa, a male Pallas' cat that arrived in December, has become a dad.

"It's the first-ever Pallas' cats born at the zoo," said Jay Tetzloff, who heads the zoo and Bloomington Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department. "We have three boys and two girls."

"There are only about 30 Pallas' cats in the U.S right now, so what is important and valuable about these guys from really a global perspective is this is new bloodline for North America," said Tetzloff, noting Mischa was imported from the Czech Republic.

Announcement of the births of the five kittens four weeks ago was timed to coincide with International Pallas' Cat Day, which was celebrated on Tuesday.

Since the announcement "more people have been engaged with this story than anything we've ever done," said Tetzloff. "We've had more than 47,000 (social media) views. We don't know why." 

Miller Park Zoo has a female Pallas' cat, but never had a breeding pair until Mischa's arrival.

The Pallas' cat is around the same size as a household cat, but has a stocky body and thick fur and is more elusive in nature.

Its natural habitat is Central Asia, where it inhabits elevations over three miles in the Tibetan Plateau.

Pallas' cats are listed as a vulnerable species, with its numbers affected by habitat destruction, loss of natural prey and hunting, said Tetzloff.

The kittens can be seen at the Pallas’ cat exhibit located across from the North American River Otter exhibit at the zoo.

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Contact Maria Nagle at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle

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