Monthly Wild Cat News
A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World
This is the first in a series of articles on the wild cats of China. The IUCN Cat Specialist Group has released a special report, in conjunction with the Department of Wildlife Conservation, State Forestry Administration, China. Over the next few weeks, we will be presenting excerpts from that publication to give an overall picture of wild cat conservation in that country.
China is a land of cats. Almost a third of the 37 living cat species worldwide occur in the People’s Republic of China. This richness is no surprise considering the size and diversity of the country. China stretches over 9.6 million square kilometres from the Turfan depression 154 metres below sea level to the peak of the Qomolangma at 8,848 metres. Ecological regions include tropical rainforest in the southeast to boreal forest in the north, grass steppe in the northeast to sand deserts in the west and high alpine zones in the southwest. And in all these distinct habitat types, we can find felid species.
For some species the Chinese part is the most significant of their global range. China is important for the conservation of the cats, and the cats are important for nature conservation in China because they are living symbols of China’s biological and ecological diversity.
But China is also the most populated country in the world, and the cats need to share all living space with many people who have, in the course of a very old culture, brought the use of nature to perfection. Today, China is the world’s fastest growing economy, and this brings new challenges, but also opportunities for the conservation of the indigenous fauna. Habitat destruction, the traditional consumptive use of cats, and the increasing fragmentation of the landscape through modern transport infrastructure are among the threats to the survival of wildlife in China.
But the fast development also brings opportunities: as a consequence of urbanization and rural exodus, some regions are experiencing habitat recovery. Vast reforestation programs help to restore the forest, new laws protect wildlife and their habitats.
Over 2,000 protected areas of various categories are today recognised in China, protecting 14-18% of the country’s land area. The increasing wealth of Chinese society not only provides more financial capacity for nature conservation projects, but it also boosts the interest of Chinese citizens in wildlife and nature conservation.
Source: CATnews Special Issue 5 Autumn 2010, Authors: Urs Breitenmoser, Wang Weisheng, Lu Jun and Eva Jutzeler
Next: Cats In China: Legal Status and Conservation