China's varied terrain and habitats supports a wide range of plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. China is home to more than a hundred wildlife species found nowhere else in the world, such as the giant panda, the Chinese alligator, the golden monkey, the Yangtze dolphin and chiru. [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography, Gale Group, Inc., 2003]

China lies in two of the world's major zoogeographic regions, the Palearctic and the Oriental. The Tibetan Plateau, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia autonomous regions, northeastern China, and all areas north of the Huang He are in the Palearctic region. Central, southern, and southwest China lie in the Oriental region. In the Palearctic zone are found such important mammals as the river fox, horse, camel, tapir, mouse hare, hamster, and jerboa. Among the species found in the Oriental region are the civet cat, Chinese pangolin, bamboo rat, tree shrew, and also gibbon and various other species of monkeys and apes. Some overlap exists between the two regions because of natural dispersal and migration, and deer or antelope, bears, wolves, pigs, and rodents are found in all of the diverse climatic and geological environments. The famous giant panda is found only in a limited area in Sichuan and Gansu Provinces. [Source: Library of Congress, 1987 ]

Animals found in the mountains of central China, Sichuan, Yunnan and Eastern Tibet include the giant panda, red panda, the golden money, white-lipped deer, white-rumped deer , snow leopard, clouded leopard, leopard, Tibetan macaque, rhesus macaque, sambar, goral, serow, burhel, Alpine musk deer, large Indian civet, small Indian civet, lynx, Pallas's cat, Asiatic black bear, pika-eating bear, Himalayan marten and European otter. [Source: Science Museum of China kepu.net.cn

Jackals: can be found in China. They sometimes prey on panda cubs. Chinese say they have a unique hunting skill in which they climb onto the back of their prey, gouge out the eyes first, then snap at the anus and pull the intestines out. For this move they have been dubbed "dig dog".

The Chinese sturgeon has been around for 140 million years. It grows very slowly and was among the first class of animals to be protected in China. Deformities such as one or no eyes and misshapen skeletons and decreasing numbers of rare wild Chinese sturgeon in the Yangtze has been blamed on a paint chemical widely used in Chinese industry.

Elephants in China

Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) found in China have a body length of 5.5-6.4 meters, excluding a 1.2-1.5 meter tail, and a height of 2.4-3 meters. They weigh 5000 kilograms and live in tropical forests and areas around such forests. Using their curling, flexible trunk they eat of many kinds of all vegetation. They can be found in South Yunnan. They are regarded as an endangered species.

There are about 300 wild elephants in China. They were once were found as north as Beijing but over the centuries have seen their numbers decline and habitat shrink as result of wars, ivory hunting, the destruction of forests. The last remaining elephants are found in three separate areas squeezed into ever-shrinking habitats sandwiched between rubber plantations, tea farms, rice paddies, highways and development schemes. Although they are generally amiable elephants can sometimes be dangerous. More than 50 people died in incidents involving Asian elephants between 2011 and 2019, according to state media.

A male elephant named Xiguang was captured along the Chinese-Myanmar border by drug smugglers in March 2005 using heroin-laced bananas to pacify the creature, The elephant continue to be fed the bananas and became addicted to heroin. Two months later Xiaguang was captured with six other elephants in southwest China and found to suffering from withdrawal,. He was sent for rehab in a protection center on Hainan Island and was cured of his addiction using daily methadone doses five time larger than those given to humans

China is the largest market for ivory. Much of the ivory from poached elephants in Africa is smuggled into China . Jewelry, chopsticks, and figures made from ivory are widely sold in souvenir shops in southern China. According to animal welfare groups, few Chinese realize that ivory comes from killed elephants. In July 2008, CITES allowed China to import ivory from several African nations.

Elephant Conservation in China

Asian elephant

Killing an elephant is a serious crime. In 1995, four people were executed for poaching elephants for their tusks, Since then no poaching cases have been reported although some elephants have been wounded by gunshots when they have wandered across borders to Myanmar and Laos.

Thanks to conservation efforts by Chinese China’s wild elephants have doubled in number to more between 1990 and 2020, but their habitat has shrunk by nearly two-thirds over the same period, much of it due to the development of rubber plantations in places where the elephants live. [Source: Charlie Campbell, Time magazine, July 14, 2021]

Conservationists have used the case of the wandering Yunnan elephants in 2020 and 2021 (See Below) to leverage the greater public awareness of habitat loss to ensure that real change can come from the elephants’ plight. According to Time magazine Environmentalists have called for the Chinese government to set up dedicated elephant nature reserves like the successful ones created for pandas and snow leopards. Given the price of rubber is extremely low, buying back land from farmers is a possibility. “We hope that elephants can recover their populations in their historic range,” Becky Shu Chen, from the IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group, told state broadcaster CTGN. “But it’s extremely challenging [for them to] coexist with people.”

Rising elephant numbers, plus the destruction of their habitats combined with their new taste for energy-rich crops, means that human-elephant conflict will only rise. “The big fear is that the intensity of conflict between humans and elephants can start as just a nuisance and quickly grow to the point where people or elephants get killed,” Joshua Plotnik, assistant professor of elephant psychology at Hunter College, City University of New York, told Time “This is already happening in some countries in Asia, and spells a dire future for elephants if we don’t reverse the trend.”

Elephants in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan

The most famous elephant herd in China is in Wild Elephant Valley park near Mengman in the Xishuangbanna region of southwest Yunnan near Laos and Myanmar. The elephants are a big tourist attraction but otherwise they have an uneasy relation with the human population there who put up with gobbled up crops, smashed greenhouses and even laundry pulled off of clotheslines by the elephants. [Source: Barbara Demick and Nicole Liu, Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2010]

In 2008, a woman who ran a food kiosk in the park was trampled to death by an angry elephant. A few months late a U.S. tourist was critically injured by an elephant while trying to take a picture. In a village near the park an elephant killed a television cameraman investigating reports about crop destruction. Another villager, an old man, was trampled to death while collecting peanuts in the mud. In 2005, raids by wild elephants in Yunnan Province killed three villagers and destroyed crops belonging to 12,000 households in 576 communities. On how locals view the elephants one villager told the Los Angeles Times, “The villagers get angry with the elephants, but there is nothing they can do about it. The elephants are protected by the government.” One elderly farmer told the Los Angeles Times, “I see them now more often than I did when I was growing up in the 1950s. Back then there was jungle everywhere and they seldom emerged.”

In recent years helping the elephants has become a cause taken up by environmentalists and the government, with the latter doing things like providing compensation for crops damaged by elephants, paying villagers to collect data on the elephants and offering farmers micro-credit loans to raise tea which elephants don’t like over corn which they fancy. In large cities animal welfare groups have organized campaigns to encourage Chinese not to buy ivory and to inform them that ivory comes killed elephants. There is some discussion of setting up a captive breeding center for elephants like the one for pandas.

Officials in Yunnan Province announced the creation of “dinner halls” for wild elephants to prevent them from devouring crops and attacking villages. Seventy hectares of bananas and sugar cane have been raised on spare land away from villages in hopes that 300 wild elephants that live in the area will eat these crops and leave farmer’s crops alone.

Yunnan’s Wandering Elephants

In 2020 and 2021, the world watched as group of elephants wandered hundreds of kilometers across Yunnan province, finally turned around in Kunming, a city of around 6 million, returning home after about 17 months on the move. During their trek they smashed down doors, raiding shops, "stole" food, played around in the mud, bathed in a canal and napped in the middle of a forest and on city streets, in the process causing over US$1.1 million in damage . Tessa Wong of the BBC wrote: From breaking into villagers' homes to giving birth while on the road, it's been an epic journey that could have been straight out of The Lord of the Rings.”[Source: Tessa Wong, BBC News, August 16, 2021]

The elephants reached a distances of 500 kilometers (310 miles) from their home, record for elephant in China, and went through several highly populated areas and came in contact with vehicles and soldiers. “The trek began in their home habitat in Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, a sprawling 2,410-square-kilometers area of rainforests in southern Yunnan province on the border of Myanmar and Laos. In March, 2020, 16 elephants were seen moving north from the nature reserve toward Pu’er, a city of 2.5 million. Within a month they had reached Yuanjiang County, about 375 kilometers (230 miles) north of their starting point.

Wong wrote: Nobody batted an eyelid at first. Wild elephants are known to roam freely and regularly in the region, such that one city, Pu'er, even runs "elephant canteens" to feed their large visitors. Most don't stray very far, and usually head home after a while. But months after the herd left, officials started to realise that this was no ordinary trip. This realisation literally hit home when reports emerged of the elephants crashing into people's houses, munching on their crops, and guzzling their water. Elephants are known for their voracious appetite, and so far they have wolfed down a staggering 180 tonnes of corn, bananas, pineapples and other food laid out for them. Even a sideview mirror was torn off by a curious elephant inspecting a vehicle. CCTV footage of the elephants wandering around the streets of various cities also went viral. Even now experts remain baffled by their behaviour. A fleet of drones tracking the elephants captured some iconic moments, such as a mudbath, a tussle between two young elephants and babies who had slipped into a trench.

“In April two elephants peeled off and decided to return home. Another one strayed in June, and officials eventually tranquilised and transported him home as they were worried that he would not survive alone. All three were males, which usually travel alone. But the tribe welcomed new members too: at least two elephants gave birth, according to Prof Campos-Arceiz.

Throughout it all, the people of China remained transfixed. The Asian elephants of Yunnan became a household name as their adventures became national news, and villagers lined their route hoping for a glimpse. Every movement was closely monitored not just by the drones but also scientists studying their trails and faeces, and even paparazzi livestreamers who ate their leftover pineapples.

According to the New York Times: Social media users have cooed over videos of an older elephant rescuing a calf that fell into a gutter. They have suggested that if the elephants hurry, they will arrive in Beijing in time for the Chinese Communist Party’s 100th anniversary next month. Even Xinhua, the state news agency, has jokingly referred to the herd as a “tour group.”

The hashtag “northbound wild elephants’ buffet site” trended on Weibo, a popular social media platform in China, after residents in a village near Kunming prepared cartloads of corn stalks for them.While acknowledging the public’s amusement, the government has warned people to stay away from the animals, reminding them that they can be dangerous. The wandering herd has yet to cause any injuries to humans,” but elephants in China have. “Local officials have scrambled to draw up “Elephant Accident and Prevention Emergency Plans.” They have been tracking the elephants’ movements by drone and dispatched hundreds of workers to evacuate residents, set up emergency barriers and reserve 18 tons of food. [Source: Vivian Wang, New York Times, June 5, 2021]

Why Did the Yunnan Elephants Wander So Far

Scientists like everyone else were baffled as to why the elephants undertook such a long trek. “It is almost certainly related to the need for resources — food, water, shelter — and this would make sense given the fact that, in most locations where Asian elephants live in the wild, there is an increase in human disturbances leading to habitat fragmentation, loss and resource reduction," Plotnik told the BBC. Elephants can eat 200 kilogram of food every day and much of their traditional habitat near Xishuangbanna has been turned into rubber plantations. [Source: Suranjana Tewarim BBC News, June 23, 2021]

Plotnik told Time “The individual personalities of the elephants in this group [may have] contributed to their decision to leave. It is also likely that once the elephants got a taste for the high quality food readily available in crop fields, such as sugar cane, they continued to seek it out.” Elephants are matriarchal with the oldest and wisest female leading the group of grandmothers, mothers and aunties along with their sons and daughters. After puberty, males break off and travel alone or link up in groups with other males for a short time. They only congregate with females temporarily to mate before leaving again. However, this herd set out as a group of 16 or 17 elephants, including three males — one who stayed almost until they reached Kunming. "It's not unusual, but I'm surprised he stayed that long. It was probably because of unfamiliar territory. When I saw them walking into a town or village, they were moving closely together — that's a sign of stress," said Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, professor and principal investigator at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden.

“Elephants are closer in behaviour to humans than other mammals, experiencing a range of emotions like joy in birth, grief in death and anxiety in unfamiliar territory. Researchers were also taken by surprise when two of the female elephants gave birth on the journey. "Elephants are very habitual and very routine driven, it's unusual for them to move to new areas when they're about to give birth — they try to find the safest place they can," Lisa Olivier at Game Rangers International, a wildlife conservation organisation based in Zambia, told the BBC.

In a paper published in Conservation Letters journal in 2021, a team of China-based experts led by Professor Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz theorised “that the elephants left to find more food due to several reasons. One is the growing elephant population — and thus greater competition for food. "Now we need to deal with the consequences of this success, which is a real challenge because the elephants are running out of physical space to move without interacting with people, crops, or infrastructure," Prof Campos-Arceiz, a principal investigator at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, told the BBC. [Source: Tessa Wong, BBC News, August 16, 2021]

An extreme drought, which lasted for a year up to the elephants' departure, also led food to be more scarce. Others have pointed out that over the decades, deforestation and encroaching farmland have reduced elephants' habitats in China outside protected areas. Authorities have tried to boost forest protections. But ironically this has also meant less available food for the elephants within nature reserves, with a thicker forest canopy blocking off more sunlight, resulting in fewer edible plants growing in the understorey, said Prof Campos-Arceiz.

The elephants also got their own celebrity rumour — a claim that they "got drunk" after consuming tonnes of corn wine was quickly debunked by experts. According to Time magazine: One popular live stream showed a calf trying to clamber out from under a snoozing adult during a group nap. In another, some of the elephants seemed to get drunk after feasting on fermented grain. One calf, trying to drink water, was seen plunging head first into a pond.

Yunnan’s Wandering Elephants Finally Turn Around and Go Home

Tessa Wong of the BBC wrote: By early June 2021, the herd had reached the provincial capital of Kunming — more than 500 kilometers from home and the furthest any Yunnan wild elephant had ever gone. Some began to worry for their survival as they headed to cooler climes and prolonged their interaction with human civilisation. What many saw as endearing behaviour, such as roaming in towns as a close pack and lying down for a nap, were actually signs of stress and exhaustion, experts have told the BBC. [Source: Tessa Wong, BBC News, August 16, 2021]

Much to officials' relief, the elephants began turning southwards a few weeks later, and soon neared the Yuanjiang river. Authorities said that within the herd's immediate radius, only one bridge was suitable for an elephant crossing. The taskforce sent out thousands of soldiers and workers to lay out food as bait, set up electric fences, create artificial paths, and even sprinkle water on roads to ensure they were cool enough for the elephants to step on.

But the animals were less reluctant to follow. What would have been a straightforward 30 kilometers journey turned into a 143 kilometer trek as they wandered off-piste, according to reports. Finally, on August 8, the herd lumbered across the bridge over the Yuanjiang river. Though they were still 200 kilometer away from the Xishuangbanna nature reserve, local media heralded the start of the final leg of their journey.

Wild Cattle in China

There are three species of wild animals with "niu" in their Chinese names: ye niu (gaur), ye maoniu (wild yak) and ling niu (takin). Of them, only gaur and wild yak, are truly wild cattle. The takin, a large, sturdy animal that looks rather like a musk ox, is actually an antelope. [Source: China Daily January 21, 2009]

Once found in central China, extending to the Indian subcontinent through Myanmar and Indochina to the Malay Peninsular, the gaur is the rarest one of the three in China and can only be seen in the southernmost part of Southwest China's Yunnan province. Where gaurs have not been disturbed, they are basically diurnal, being most active in the morning and late afternoon and resting during the hottest time of the day. However, where they have been disturbed by humans, gaurs have become largely nocturnal, rarely seen in the open after 8:00am. During the dry season, herds congregate and remain in small areas, dispersing into the hills with the arrival of the monsoon. While gaurs depend on water for drinking, they do not seem to bathe or wallow. Moreover, when alarmed, they charge off into the jungle with surprising speed.

Deer in China

20080318-Pere david4.jpg
Pere David deer
The Chinese water deer stands only 30 inches high. Found in reedy marshes in northeastern China, it is the only deer species that lacks antlers other than the musk deer. Both males and females have long, striking tusks — actually long, sharp upper canine teeth — that drop down out of their mouth. Males use the tusks when they fight. The oldest prehistoric deer had tusks. Horns and antlers were developed later. The Chinese water deer also swims and barks.

The white-lipped deer (Cervus albirostris) lives in the shrubberies, meadows of the forest in the high mountains at an altitude above 3500 meters in Sichuan, Yunnan, Qinghai and Tibet. Good at climbing over the quickstones, crags and cliffs, it often hides itself in the shrubbery on the edge of a forest. White-lipped deer live in groups and move vertically in accordance with the season. They search for food in the morning and evening, feeding mainly on grasses. Its diet also includes tender sprouts. They often rut and mate in September or August. After eight or nine months later, females gives birth to a fawn between May to July. The The white-lipped deer is unique to China. White-lipped deer are found mainly in Qinghai Province and Tibet. On China’s National List for Specially Protected Wild Animals it is listed as a threatened species. [Source: Science Museum of China kepu.net.cn]

White-rumped deer (Ce macneilli) lives in the high mountains at an altitude above 3500 meters in Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet. In summer, it goes to the shrubberies of drifting sand while in winter moves down to take shelter from wind in the sunny meadows or a valley. White-rumped deer live in groups. Their diet mainly includes sprouts and tender leaves. They also feed on dry grass and barks in winter. They often rut and mate in September or August. After 230 to 240 days' pregnancy, a white-bumped deer often gives birth to a baby deer at a time between May to July. On China’s National List for Specially Protected Wild Animals, it is listed as a threatened species.

Sambar (Cervus unicolor) are mainly distributed in the broadleaved forest or coniferous forest with an altitude of 1400 to 3500 meters. Arboreal in its habits, sambars often hide themselves in the thick woods and sleep at day time. Living solitarily or in pairs, they only form in groups in mating season. Acute and agile, they are good at runners. Its diet consists of green grass and tree leaves. The mating season of the sambar is between April and June. After about six months' pregnancy, a female sambar generally gives birth to one young. Sambar can be found in mountain areas all over Southern China and the Yangtze basin and are regarded as a threatened but not endangered species. In Yunnan and Hainan Island, people have raised sambars for quite a long time.

The Alpine musk deer (Moschus sifanicus) is mainly distributed in the meadows, grasslands and bare rocks shrubberies with coniferous forests or beside hillcrests. Alpine musk deer live in an altitude of 3000 to 4000 meters. Solitary in nature, they move in a relatively fixed route in the morning or evening. If they find any trace of man, they will find another route. The alpine musk deer does not climb trees. Its diet consists of mountain grass, shrubbery leaves and twigs, mosses and lichen. Its mating season is winter and a pregnant female Alpine Musk Deer often gives birth to two young in June of the following year. An animal peculiar to plateaus. On China’s National List for Specially Protected Wild Animals, it is listed as a threatened species.

Indian Muntjac (Barking Deer, Muntiacus muntjak) have a body length of one meter and a tail length of 17-21 centimeters and weigh 25-30 kilograms. Their preferred habitats are forests and bushes in low altitude mountains and hills. They eat branches, leaves, flowers, fruit, various kinds of f vegetation and crops. Their skin has traditionally been a source of leather in China. For this reason they were widely hunted in South China. In China they can be found in Southeast, South and Southwest China and are not considered threatened or endangered. [Source: Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net.cn]

Mouse deer (Tragulus javanicus) have a body length of 42-48 centimeters and a tail of 5-7 centimeters long and weigh 1.2-2 kilograms. They live in dense bush, grasslands, tropical forest and on hills and mountains. They eat leaves, shoots, flowers, fruit and vegetation of various kinds. They can be found in Mengla county of Xishuangbanna, Yunnan and are regarded as an endangered species in China. [Source: Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net]

Wild Horses and Bactrian Camels in China

Prezwalski Horses, or Wild Asiatic horses, are the last remaining species of wild horse. They are found almost exclusively in zoos although a few wild ones remain in the remote Altyn Dagh mountains of Xinjiang and some have been reintroduced to Mongolia. See Mongolia. Ancient Juchi and Il in Chinese Turkestan were famous for heavenly horses thought to have been the offspring of dragons and celestial horses.

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Bactrian camel
There are fewer than 900 wild Bactrian camels remaining in the wild. They live in three small populations: 1) one on the Mongolian-China border; 2) far western China; and 3) in the Kum Tagh desert. They are threatened by poaching, wolves and illegal mining. Some illegal miners have placed explosives at water holes to blow up camels. Ancestors of the domestic camel, wild Bactrian camels are slimmer and less wooly and have smaller conical humps than domesticated Bactrian camels. They stand 172 centimeters at the shoulder. Males weigh 600 kilograms and females weigh 450 kilograms. They eat grasses, leaves and shrubs.

Wild Bactrian camels live on the arid plains, hills and desert in Mongolia and China. They can survive on shrubby plants and no water for 10 days. They follow migratory paths across the desert to oasis and feed in tall grasses. Female Bactrian camels travel in small groups with six to 20 members. Males are often solitary but will unite with a female group in the mating

In 1998, the Chinese government announced that a 42,000-square-mile sanctuary would be set up at Lop Nor nuclear testing sight in Xinjiang Province for rare wild Bactrian camels. About 400 camels live in the area, which supports few other animals. There is no fresh water in the area. The camels have adapted to drinking salt water from salt springs and they eat dry grass and tamarisks that grow around the springs. There is little vegetation or animals, not even birds, which is why it was selected as an area to test 45 nuclear devices, which were detonated underground between 1964 and 1996.

Wild Boars in China

In Zhejiang Province, wild boar numbers increased from 29,000 to 150,000 between 2000 and 2010. To keep them from destroying crops and moving into farmland and residential areas farmers make as much noise as possible to scare them away, using vuvuzelas, gongs, karaoke machines, firecrackers and bombs, in addition to electric fences and traps. [Source: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, September 13, 2010]

Hungry boars have moved from their mountain forest homes to forage in farmland and the residential suburbs of Hangzhou. Local officials in Zhejiang say the animal population has increased fivefold in over 10 years because villagers — their main predator — are moving into the cities and gun licences have been restricted as part of the security arrangements for the Shanghai Expo.

“The growing wild boar population is now a disaster to our village and neighboring ones. We knock on gongs, explode firecrackers and even use bombs, but there are just so many,” one villager told Xinhua. Local media have been filled with warnings of the impact on crops and other species. Corn yields in the worst affected area are expected to fall by one-third because so many plants have been trampled upon.

Neighboring Jiangxi province reported a similar problem and issued 7,200 hunting licenses to cull the boar population. In Zhejiang, this has been difficult because the province borders Shanghai, which impoed gun control laws for the Expo in 2010.

Medium-Size Mammals in China

In India, Bangladesh and China otters have been taught to catch fish for their human owners. The practice has died out In China but is still alive in Bangladesh. In China, raccoon dogs (tanukis) are bred in farms for their raccoon-like fur, which is used to trim coats and other clothing. In 2008, 1,500 raccoons died from eating feed tainted with melamine.

The Himalayan marten (Martes flavigula) is mainly found in the river valleys of forested lower mountains, forests of all kinds, as well as coniferous forests with an altitude of 3000 meters. It is often well-concealed and only active in the morning and evening. It becomes alert at hearing any strange noise and then hunts after its game. A solitary carnivore animal, the Himalayan marten mainly hunts small mammals, birds, deer, boars, young giant pandas, as well as wild fruits and seeds. Its mating season is in autumn and a female marten often gives birth to four or five young in each pregnancy. In the On China’s National List for Specially Protected Wild Animals, it is listed as a threatened species.

The European Otter (Lutra lutra) lives mainly in the riverbanks, where it digs tunnels to make its home. Some of the tunnels lead to the water. A nocturnal animal, the otter is good swimmer and diver, because its nostrils and ears can be closed. The otter feeds mainly on fish; but its diet also includes crabs, frogs, and rodents. Its mating season is in spring and summer. After two months' pregnancy, a female otter often gives birth to one to five baby otters in each pregnancy. In the China’s National List for Specially Protected Wild Animals, it is listed as a threatened species.

Black giant squirrels (Ratufa bicolor) have a body length of 40 centimeters and a tail length of 50-60 centimeters and weigh 1000-3000 grams. Their preferred habitats are tropical rainforests and seasonal rainforests They gather food with their forelimbs and mouth and eat fruits, young leaves and stamen. Black giant squirrels spend their time alone or in pairs during daytime and eat selectively. They mate in September and in October. Females five birth to 5 or 6 young at one time. They can be found in South Yunnan. Guangxi and Hainan Island and are regarded as a threatened but not endangered species.

Civets in China

Large Indian civets (Viverra zibetha) have a body length of 60-80 centimeters and their tail are 40-50 centimeters long and weigh 6-10 kilograms. Their preferred habitats are woods, bushlands and grasslands in hills and mountains and catch small animals with their paws and teeth and eat mice, frogs, insects, birds, fruits, roots and stems of some vegetation. Southern Chinese call them "fox cat". They have the habit of defecating in fixed places, thus are commonly called "waste delivery wolf" in China. Adult large Indian civets have secretion glands in their private parts and their secretion have foul smells. When they encounter enemies, they spray large amount of secretions to defend themselves. This secretion are usually called civetta, which are often used in perfume industry as perfume fixing agent to make the good smell of the perfume last longer. In some places, people raise them to get their civetta. They can be found in many provinces of China, particularly southern China, including Jiangsu, West Sichuan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Shanxi and Hainan. They are regarded as threatened not endangered species.

The Small Indian Civet (Viverricula indica) is mainly found in the medium or lower mountains and deep valleys of East and Southeast Sichuan Basin. Small Indians Civets live in the forest and bushes. Solitary in nature and nocturnal in habit, they make their home in caves. They are also good climbers and often move in places near brooks. On China’s National List for Specially Protected Wild Animals, it is listed as a threatened species.

Bingturong (Arctictis binturong) have a body length of 70-80 centimeters and a tail of 70-80 centimeters long and weigh 11-13 kilograms. Their preferred habitats are dense tropical rainforest and seasonal monsoon rainforest They often are solitary. They move around in big and tall trees and are good at climbing. Their tail is quite flexible and can coil on branches during climbing. They mostly move around in early morning or at dusk. They catch small animals with their paws and teeth and eat wild fruits, insects and small birds. They can be found in Xishuangbanna of Yunnan and Guangxi in China. They are regarded as an endangered species. [Source: Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net]

Prezwalski horses

Rat Explosions and Mice Attack in China

In some parts of China there has been huge population explosions of rats, so many that naturalists worry about their impact on forests and grasslands. By some estimated rats have damaged 1.4 million hectare of land and some worry they could trigger an outbreak of the plague.In March 2006, the Chinese government said it would spend $1 billion to repel the invasion of rats that was infesting wetlands on the Tibetan plateau. In the previous decade rats had destroyed one third of the grass lands in the massive Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve in remote western Qinghai Province, exacerbating erosion around the world’s highest and largest wetland. The rats damaged the grasslands by eating the grass, digging holes and turning the earth, transforming pastures into wetlands.

In the summer of 2007, the combination of a long drought followed by floods produced an infestation of mice around Dongting Lake in Hunan Province that destroyed thousands of acres of crops and damaging important dikes by burrowed through them to reach crops. By some estimated 2 billion eastern field mice — known locally as rats — overran 22 counties around the lake. .

The were reports of houses in Hunan being inundated with mice driven from their holes by flood waters. A farmer woke up one morning to find his fields destroyed by mice told the Washington Post, “You can hear them as they bite the rice — chir, chir chir. It’s deafening.” Another said, “You can easily step on them just by walking on the road, the are so many.”

A massive mice cull was conducted and people were put on the alert for rodent-caused disease. Efforts to poison them worked to some degrees by also killed cats, dogs, cows, chickens and pigs. Television footage showed residents of Yoyang city beating mice to death with clubs and shovels. Others were caught with fishing nets and drowned and poisoned. Over a five week period 2.3 million mice — 90 tons of them — were killed. . Most were buried in deep pits under layers of lime o prevent the spread of disease.

A drought that lasted through much of the fall, winter and spring, reduced the water levels in Lake Dongting Lake around the cities of Bianhu and Yueyand in Hunan, producing condition ideal for mice breeding. When the gates of the sluice on Three Gorges Dam were opened to relieve flooding water from the Yangtze poured into the lake, causing the mice to flee for high ground. Witnesses said the scene was like a movie about the Apocalypse.

Overpopulations of mice are also being blamed on the harvesting of snakes for food. Snakes can consume up to 400 mice year. To prevent a rat infestation in the future around Dongting Lake there is some discussion of erecting a 40-kilometer-long, one meter-high wall to keep the rats out. Environmentalists say human activity, namely those that have led to a decrease in natural enemies of rats such as snakes and owls, around the lake is the primary cause of the rat problem.

Image Sources: 1) Kostich; 2) Wild Alliance; 3) AAPA; 4) Tooter for Kids; 5, 6) China Alligator Fund; 7) Blogspot; 8, 9) China Science Academy; 10 Environmental News11) CNTO

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated July 2022

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