A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World
Tag Archives: cats in China
December 21, 2011Posted by on
The Fishing Cat Prionailurus viverrinus has an apparently broad but discontinuous distribution in Asia. It is classified as an endangered species by the IUCN Red List because of severe population declines throughout much of its range over the last decade. An appalling lack of reliable evidence for its occurrence within the presumed range has become apparent.
This cat is primarily found in the Terai region of the Himalayan foothills in Nepal and northeastern India. It appears to occur all over Sri Lanka, and is considered widespread and locally common in Bangladesh. Camera trap studies and sign surveys have confirmed the presence of Fishing Cats in two coastal areas of Thailand, no evidence of the species was found in two wildlife sanctuaries. Their presence is not confirmed by hard facts in Laos, and no sign of them was found in Vietnam during a survey conducted by wildlife officers. However, the officers admitted problems with species identification.
The Fishing Cat is often not recognized as a Chinese species. In 1986, it was reported to have probably disappeared from the western border regions of China. One record from Taiwan from 1962 is now considered to be erroneous, while two other records from Yunnan from 1996 remain unclear. The existence of a stable population in China is unlikely, but there could well be Fishing cats occasionally roaming Into Guangxi or Yunnan near the Vietnam border.
The greatest threat to the Fishing Cat across its range is destruction of wetlands and mangrove habitats through settlement, conversion to agriculture and aquaculture, excessive hunting, and wood-cutting. The Fishing Cat may also be threatened by pollution of rivers through agriculture or waste water from fish farms. The depletion of fish stocks from over-fishing is prevalent in many Asian wetland environments and is likely to be a significant threat. Fishing Cats are shot or poisoned because they raid poultry sheds and are believed to kill young domestic livestock. Their pelts can still be found on wildlife markets. They are also caught in fish traps or snares set for other species. On Java, remaining wild populations were suspected to suffer from genetic decline because of population fragmentation.
Current and future protection
The Fishing Cat is protected by national legislation over most of its range. Local wildlife authorities in Yunnan and Guanxi should be made aware of the possible occurrence of the species in their provinces.
Source: IUCN/CSG Cat News Special Issue Autumn 2010
December 14, 2011Posted by on
The Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis has the broadest geographic distribution of all small Asian Cats. It is found in much of Southeast Asia.
The Leopard Cat seems to be common across much of its range, e.g. China and Thailand. Leopard Cat populations are stable in many areas and the species’ high adaptability enables it to thrive even in altered habitats such as palm oil plantations. However, according to the IUCN Red List (2010), the species seems to be in decline in some parts of its range. Island populations are most vulnerable, but it is also said to be declining in Bangladesh, and vulnerable in India.
The Leopard Cat is widely distributed over China and exists probably in relatively large numbers compared to other felid species. With the exception of the deserts in the west, dry wilderness areas, and central parts of the Tibet Plateau, it is distributed all over the country. In the 1990s Leopard Cats were reported from the outskirts of Beijing, where they were thought to have disappeared years ago. However, only very few studies have really looked into the present status of the Leopard Cat.
The two subspecies P.B.bengalensis and P.B. phinensis were estimated to number 1.5 – 2 million in China in the 1990s. Even though hundreds of thousands were trapped for the fur trade in the 1980s, Leopard Cats still seem to be fairly common. But a decline in harvest in the last years of legal trapping may be an indication of over-hunting. Reasons for the Leopard Cat’s relative abundance in China compared to other cat species may include its use of a wide range of habitats, better adaptation to human settlements, and few large predators to compete with, since those have been overhunted or exterminated in certain areas.
In China, the Leopard Cat’s habitat varies widely. It occupies temperate, subtropical and tropical habitats, including primary and secondary forest, hill forest, shrub and grassland, but it is thought to prefer secondary forest and forest fringes. It is less common in the arid areas of the north and the north-west, as well as high mountain shrubland and highland grass habitat. It also lives in man-made economic forests (e.g. rubber and tea plantations and pine forests etc.) and agricultural landscapes, and is often seen near villages.
In China, commercial exploitation has been heavy for the last several decades, especially in the southwest. The earliest available harvest numbers are from 1952 and add up to around 14,000 skins. By 1981 this number had risen to 38,000 skins. In 1985-1988 very high estimates sometimes exceeded 400,000 skins and at least half of these skins came from Yunnan and Guizhou Province alone. Many of these skins were exported to Europe until their import was banned in 1988, due to concerns over the species’ status. Skins were also exported to Japan (50,000 skins in 1989), as well as surrounding regions (e.g. Nepal, Kashmir).
While export numbers were still high in 1988 (nearly 200,000 skins), they started to decline from less and 100,000 skins in 1989 to 8,000 in 1992 until export was suspended in 1993.
Major threats for this species in China in the past were over-harvesting and habitat loss with the strong deforestation during the rapid expansion of the human population. Nowadays, the extent of direct persecution in form of illegal harvest and of indirect persecution through secondary poisoning of rodents is not known. The Leopard Cat may profit from the human rural exodus, the reforestation and the decrease in commercial harvest, but there is no study available on the long-term population trends.
Current and future protection
Chinese export of Leopard Cat skins was suspended in April 1993. At that time, the Chinese authorities declared a stockpile of roughly 800,000 skins and said that there had been no legal taking of skins since 1989. China’s CITES Management Authority stated that export of skins or products not already held in stock was not permitted until a previously announced field survey had been completed, and a succeeding management program established. Because the field survey had not been completed, after the old stockpile from the 1990s had been exported to exhaustion, no export permits were issued in subsequent years.
There may be limited consumption in China’s domestic market, but the number should be low (perhaps a thousand or so yearly). This may indicate that the hunting pressure on the Chinese Leopard Cat population has been dramatically reduced in recent years. China’s massive natural forest protection campaign since 1998 may also be tremendously helpful for habitat recovery, which should be beneficial for the Leopard Cat. Nevertheless, until comprehensive status and trade surveys supported by population ecology studies have been carried out, the status of the Leopard Cat remains unclear.
Source: IUCN Cat News Special Issue Autumn 2010, Author Yu Jinping
December 7, 2011Posted by on
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
November 30, 2011Posted by on
The Chinese mountain cat Felis bieti is found only in China and has a very limited distribution. Little to no information exists regarding the status or abundance of this elusive species. Although it has been widely reported across western China, many records are unconfirmed or erroneous. These authors examined museum specimens and reports from across China and concluded that the only confirmed specimens of the Chinese mountain cat came from the eastern and north-eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau in Qinghai and Sichuan. These two provinces account for all confirmed records of the Chinese mountain cat.
A dubious record from Sichuan province claimed that the Chinese mountain cat occurs in the same area as the giant panda, in montane bamboo forest. However, extensive camera trapping in panda habitat has never yielded a single photograph of a Chinese mountain cat.
Most reports are for skins collected in markets or villages rather than from actual observations. Often the true origin of specimens or skins is unknown and thus not recorded. Skins collected in one area and sold in another have led to confusion regarding the distribution and habitat of the Chinese mountain cat. Specimens such as those found in Sichuan are speculated to have come from the local area or from the borderlands of the extreme western edge of Sichuan Province or from the Tibetan Plateau. There are no records of occurrence in any protected areas, and there is no information regarding population trend.
The first photographs of a wild Chinese mountain cat were taken only very recently by camera traps during light snow in May 2007 at 3570 m altitude. Actual pictures were taken later in that year. These photographs were taken in rolling grasslands and brush-covered mountains. The Chinese mountain cat occurs in high-elevation steppe grassland, alpine meadow, alpine shrubland and coniferous forest edges, between 2500 m and 5000 m in elevation; it has not been confirmed in true desert or heavily forested mountains. Six Chinese mountain cat burrows were located at 3000-3600 m above sea level. The Chinese mountain cat copes with extremely high and low temperatures, and moves easily through snow in a windy and seasonally inhospitable habitat.
There are two threats to the continued existence of the Chinese mountain cat: widespread poisoning programs and the skin trade. Small mammal control programs using poison to eradicate pikas, voles and moles from large areas are sanctioned by the government. Pikas are believed to compete for graze with domestic livestock. Between 1958 and 1978, large-scale poisoning campaigns were conducted in both Qinghai and Sichuan Provinces as well as in Gansu Province and Tibet. The program was terminated with the discovery that carnivores that preyed on pikas were also victims of poisoning. However, smaller scale poisonings continue throughout much of the Chinese mountain cat’s range and affect both rodents and lagomorphs. Such poisoning programs cause general environmental pollution and are likely to be a human health hazard as well.
Direct killing by local pastoralists for the skin trade and for articles of clothing and accessories is also a threat to Chinese mountain cat populations. For instance, traditional hats are made from Chinese mountain cat pelts. Locals kill Chinese mountain cats by either trapping or poisoning the cat. Depending on how often such an event occurs, local pastoralists can with patience and time extirpate a local population one individual at a time. Skins are sold openly in street-side shops and are commonly found in markets in Xining and southern China. There are no reliable figures for the number of skins in trade and most numbers were gathered through direct observation. In Sichuan Province, thirty pelts were taken in 1980. In 1986, George Schaller counted sixteen Chinese mountain cat skins for sale in the markets in Lingxia, Gansu Province, but reported that they were less common than those of Eurasian lynx.
The illegal fur trade might well still continue. In 1998 and 2001 around 50 skins were reported to be on sale at Songpan and Jiuzhaigou markets, even though the species is protected throughout China by laws. The widespread and open availability of skins suggest that local law enforcement officials are either unaware of the law or reluctant to enforce it. Possible records form Qinghai suggest that Chinese mountain cats might also be crossbreeding with domestic cats.
Current and future protection measures
Sanjiangyuan Reserve, Qinghai Lake Reserve and Jiuzhaigou Reserve have been created within the range of the Chinese mountain cat, but most of the species’ range is not protected.
With respect to poisoning control programs, research has found that pikas reach their greatest densities and cause greatest damage when rangeland has already been significantly degraded by domestic stock, suggesting that authorities should focus their efforts to prevent over-grazing. Healthy predator populations also limit pika numbers at no cost to humans; pikas are an important food source for a variety of carnivores and birds of prey including the Chinese mountain cat.
A survey is needed to increase understanding of the distribution and range, and to estimate the population size of the Chinese mountain cat. Political action and law enforcement is required to limit illegal hunting and trade.
Source: IUCN Cat News Special Issue 5; Authors Yin Yufeng, Drubgyal Naktsang, J Sanderson