International Society For Endangered Cats

A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World

Cats In China: Eurasian Lynx

The Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx is widely distributed from the northeast to the northwest and has been reported in the Baimaxueshan Nature Reserve, according to local reserve reports.  Specific distribution sites were confirmed by local field surveys when nature reserves were established.  In northern China the Eurasian lynx is distributed only in the mountainous areas surrounding Daxinganling Mountain.  Distribution areas include the forest in Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces and the northern part of Inner Mongolia in Northeast China.   In the northwest the lynx is seen almost everywhere in Ningxia, Gansu and Qinghai provinces as well as western Inner Mongolia and Tibet.  Lynx are not reported in southern China, indicating that the Eurasian lynx in a palaearctic species adapted to cold weather regions.

Threats and conservation

Two decades ago factors threatening the lynx including shooting, snaring, poisoning and removing cubs from dens.  Since the Wildlife Protection Law was enacted in 1988, hunting activities have been banned.  Strict limits on personal firearm possession since 2000 and associated punishments reduced field hunting sharply.  From 2003 to 2008, 31 lynx pelts, 27 small-bore rifles and 19 home-made Tibetan powder guns were confiscated in Qiantang Nature Reserve in Tibet.

Poaching is presently the main threat to lynx.  Poachers do not intend to snare lynx particularly, but are seeking species of high economic value such as red deer, roe deer, goral, antelope and gazelle.  Snares are left in the open and present a year-round danger to all wild animals.  Some of the nature reserves conduct snare removal efforts.  At Hunchun nature reserve, volunteers collected 308 snares and traps in 6 days during December 2005, during another 4-day search in January 2008 located and confiscated 511 snares and 3 clips.  At Saihanwula Nature Reserve we conducted trap removal efforts during the winters of 2007 and 2008; over 300 snares were collected.  Higher penalties were imposed on 11 poachers; those snaring for hares were fined 2000 Yuan and for deer 5000 Yuan; this is about half a year’s income for local farmers.  These penalties curbed poaching behaviour effectively; the footprints of lynx appeared steadily in the core protected areas during 2008.  But poaching is still the primary problem for nature reserve managers.

Although the national Law of Wildlife Protection was enacted in 1988 and the provincial governments were issued management regulations, law enforcement is always complicated by the personalized network of relationship and connections.  The situation is more difficult in minority communities such as in western Sichuan, Tibet and Xinjiang, where local minorities consider clothes or garment decorations from wild animal pelts to be symbols of cultural tradition and higher social dignity.

Although more and more land is being set aside in nature reserves, the lynx populations within the reserves are being impacted by the fragmentation of habitat due to expansion of human activities in rural areas.  Populations are becoming isolated from one another.  How inbreeding will influence genetic diversity in the long term is an open question.

The Eurasian lynx is listed as a national second class key protected species under strict protection of the Law of Wildlife Protection in China.  Lynx habitat has been enlarged thanks to the implementation of the project of Wildlife Conservation and Nature Reserve Construction.  As of 2008 there were over 2500 different classified reserves n the mainland, additionally, the quality of staff, facilities, and the checking stations are much improved.  Some of the nature reserves have implemented monitoring programs addressing predator-prey relationships and food supply, which have helped ungulate recovery.  These monitoring programs revealed that takin, giant panda and mainland serow increased more than 3% at Changqing nature reserve and the provisioned feeding accelerated the blue sheep population’s recovery.

Source: IUCN Cat News Special Issue Autumn 2010, Author Bao Weidong

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