Conservation status of the Chinese mountain cat (Felis bieti)
Nima Chen1, Li Li1, Sun Shan2, Yin Yufeng3, and Jim Sanderson4
1Conservation International, Jinjang District,
3Department of Life Science,
3Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, Conservation International, 1919 M Street, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036 USA
Abstract In an effort to locate free-ranging Felis bieti, the so-called Chinese mountain cat, we undertook an expedition to Ganzi Perfecture in western
In an effort to locate free-ranging Felis bieti, the so-called Chinese mountain cat, we undertook a ten-day expedition from 10 – 21 April, 2005 to Ganzi Perfecture in western
We traveled as far as Bangda village on Route 317
Though most shops did not display the skins of F. bieti we used pictures of the cat and its skin to persuade shopkeepers to show us the skins. Our request was usually fulfilled (Fig. 1). We found five skins of F. bieti for sale in three towns: Kangding, Tagong and Luhuo. Skins are bought by the shop keepers for about 80 Yuan (US$10) and then sold at a profit to tourists. We were offered skins at 400 Yuan, but after bargaining an agreeable price of 120 – 200 Yuan was reached.
Using Peng (2002) we asked interviewees to select the pictures of the cats that occurred in the region. Their choices were snow leopard, clouded leopard, jungle cat, lynx, golden cat, Chinese mountain cat, and Pallas cat. Though hunters and townspeople were either unfamiliar or confused regarding the cat’s existence, local pastoralists provided excellent information.
Most local Tibetan pastoralists quickly confirmed F. bieti’s presence. In one instance, a villager in Daofu suggested that the Pallas cat and the Chinese mountain cat were the same species. A local Tibetan female pastoralist soundly rejected this suggestion, insisting the Pallas cat was not present and that, in fact, the Chinese mountain cat occurred near her village. Like others, she pointed out the tufts on the ears, dark bands on the tail and blond/brown coat as distinctive features. All pastoralists that confirmed the existence of F. bieti told us that the cat was restricted to high elevation steppe grassland, did not occur in mountain forests, and was nocturnal. Some people said the cat feeds on rodents.
The winter fur of F. bieti is used to make traditional hats. The cat is taken in winter for two reasons: the cat is in its rich winter coat, and track following is easiest in snow. Tracks of the cat are followed to its day den in caves or in holes such as beneath trees. Poison meat is placed at the den entrance. In the morning the tracks are followed to the ailing or dead cat. Snare traps are also set at the den entrance.
One local pastoralist, Drola, took us to his home on the mountain above Bangda village where he grazed his yak herd. From Peng (2002) his wife quickly confirmed the presence of F. bieti. She then offered to sell us a hat made from F. bieti fur. Drola offered to show us the habitat of F. bieti so we hiked the trail up the mountain slopes to
At least three lines of reasoning suggest that the F. bieti’s common name should more accurately be the Chinese alpine steppe cat, or Chinese steppe cat. Though the geographic distribution of F. bieti was given by He et al. (2004), it is widely appreciated that the cat does not occur everywhere throughout this range. The heart of the geographic range, the region around
As we traveled west from Kangding the rugged topography of the greater
There are five shared characteristics in the skins we saw, three of which have been accurately portrayed in drawings. All skins we saw had hair that was gray closest to the skin, turning abruptly to brown, and ending with blond tips. The ear tufts are distinctive and obvious. All skins showed stripes across the back. The tail is fairly bushy with broad dark circular bands. Lastly, the fur on the back of the lower legs and bottom of the paws is black or very dark brown (Fig. 3-4).
We do not include measurements because the unusual skinning process causes the skin to stretch lengthwise. The belly is not cut but instead the skin is rolled off the carcass from one end to the other. This process causes excessive stretching so that the cat appears to be longer than it is in life.
Poisoning of extensive lagomorph (Ochotona) and rodent (zokor) colonies has previously been cited as a threat to F. bieti (He et al. 2004). We believe these poisoning programs are continuing in
Several lines of evidence suggest that the geographic range of Felis bieti is restricted to high elevation steppe grasslands. Thus, neither Chinese mountain cat nor Chinese desert cat seems appropriate common names. Perhaps the common name Chinese steppe cat more appropriately describes F. bieti. Previous depictions of the cat would be more accurate if the lower back legs and all feet were black. A better understanding of the ecology, behavior, and threats to F. bieti is needed and we are in pursuit of these goals.
We thank Lu Zhi, Li Shengzhi, and Philip Chou of Conservation International for facilitating our survey. We also thank Andrew Smith, and Fiona and Mel Sunquist for their valuable editorial comments.
He, L., R. García-Perea, M. Li, and F. Wei. 2004. Distribution and conservation status of the endemic Chinese mountain cat Felis bieti. Oryx 38(1):55-61.
Liao, Y. 1985. Preliminary survey of the desert cat in
Peng, Jitai. 2002. Handbook discerning wild animals protected by the province and the state in
From: Dr. Jim Sanderson
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 150 big cats
12802 Easy Street
813.920.4130 fax 885.4457 cell 493.4564
Meet our recent mountain lion cub rescues: