Wildlife of China
China's vast and diverse landscape is home to a profound variety and abundance of wildlife. As of one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world, China has, according to one measure, some 7,516 species of vertebrates including 4,936 fish, 1,269 bird, 562 mammal, 403 reptile and 346 amphibian species. In terms of the number of species, China ranks third in the world in mammals, eighth in birds, seventh in reptiles and seventh in amphibians. In each category, China is the most biodiverse country outside of the tropics.
Many species are endemic to China, including the country's most famous wildlife species, the giant panda. In all, about one-sixth of mammal species and two-thirds of amphibian species in China are endemic to the country.
Wildlife in China share habitat with and bear acute pressure from the world's largest population of humans. At least 840 animal species are threatened, vulnerable or in danger of local extinction in China, due mainly to human activity such as habitat destruction, pollution and poaching for food, fur and ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine. Endangered wildlife is protected by law, and as of 2005, the country has over 2,349 nature reserves, covering a total area of 149.95 million hectares (578,960 square miles), about 15 percent of China's total land area.
- 1 Mammals
- 1.1 Primates
- 1.2 Carnivores
- 1.3 Whales, dolphins, porpoise
- 1.4 Dugongs
- 1.5 Elephant
- 1.6 Odd-toed ungulates
- 1.7 Even-toed ungulates
- 1.8 Pangolin
- 1.9 Rodents
- 2 Birds
- 3 Reptiles
- 4 Amphibians
- 5 Fish
- 6 Invertebrates
- 7 Endangered species
- 8 Other animals native to China
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes and references
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 External links
In addition to the world’s largest population of homo sapiens, China is also home to a dozen other primate species including gibbons, macaques, leaf monkeys, gray langurs, snub-nosed monkeys and lorises. Unlike human beings, who number over 1.3 billion, most of China’s other primate species are endangered.
Only other than humans, the only other apes native to China are gibbons, which are lesser apes that live in trees swing from branches with long arms. On the ground, they are bipedal, unlike monkeys which crawl on all fours. Gibbons can be recognized by their loud calls. Gibbon pairs can sing duets.
The Hainan black crested gibbon is among the rarest and most endangered apes in the world. Endemic to the island of Hainan, there are fewer than 20 individuals left in the Bawangling National Nature Reserve. Like many other gibbons, male Hainan black crested gibbons are black in color while females are golden brown. The eastern black crested gibbon is nearly as rare with only 20 or so in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region along with 30 in neighboring Vietnam. About 99% of this ape’s habitat in China has been lost.
The black crested gibbon is found across a greater swath of southwestern China. The Yunnan lar gibbon, a subspecies of the lar or white-handed gibbon, might be extinct in China. The animal was last observed by zoologists in 1988 and its call was last heard by locals in 2002. A survey in November 2007 in the Nangunhe National Nature Reserve yielded no sign of this gibbon. The northern white-cheeked gibbon is nearly extinct in the wilderness of southern Yunnan where they are hunted by local people as charms of good luck and for their bones which are made into weaving instrument and chopsticks. As of 2008, a captive population of eight northern white-cheeked gibbons were living in the Mengyang Nature Reserve in 2008. Two of the individuals were released into the wild but still relied on tourists for food. The eastern hoolock gibbon, which are distinguished by white tufts of hair above the eyebrows, are found in western Yunnan, along the border with Myanmar. The western hoolock gibbon might be found in southeastern Tibet. All gibbons in China are Class I protected species.
The most commonly found monkeys in China are macaques, which have oversized cheeks to store food and live in large troops. The range of the Rhesus or common macaque extends from as far north as the Taihang Mountains of Shanxi and down to Hainan Island. Tibetan macaques are often seen at tourist sites such as Mount Emei and Huangshan. Stump-tailed macaques have distinct red faces and live throughout southern China. The Formosan rock macaque are endemic to Taiwan. Assam macaques are found in higher elevation areas of southern Tibet and the Southwest, and the northern pig-tailed macaque in Yunnan.
Macaques are Class I protected species in China but their numbers have fallen sharply. Monkey brain is a delicacy in parts of Guangxi and Guangdong, and macaques are often hunted for food. The Monpa and Lhoba people of southern Tibet eat Assam macaques. From 1998 to 2004, the number of Rhesus macaques in China fell from 254,000 to about 77,000. Over the same period, the Tibetan macaque population fell by 83% from about 100,000 to only about 17,000.
Snub-nosed monkeys are so named because they have only nostrils and virtually no nose. Four of the five species in the world are found in China, including three that are endemic. All live in mountainous forests at elevations of 1,500-3,400 m above sea level. The golden snub-nosed monkey is most famous and most widely distributed, with subspecies in Sichuan, Hubei and Shaanxi. The gray snub-nosed monkey is the most endangered, with about 700 individuals, found only in Guizhou. The black snub-nosed monkey has about 1,700 individuals living in 17 identified groups in Yunnan and eastern Tibet. A small population of Myanmar snub-nosed monkey was found in western Yunnan in 2011.
Other Old World monkeys in China include the François' langur, white-headed langur, Phayre's leaf monkey, capped langur and Shortridge's langur, which are collectively categorized as lutungs and the Nepal gray langur, which is considered a true langur. All of these species are endangered. Lutungs, also called leaf monkeys, have relatively short arms, longer legs and long tails along with a hood of hair above their eyes. François' langur is found only in southwest China and northern Vietnam. The range of the white-headed langur is much smaller—only in southern Guangxi and Cát Bà Island in Vietnam. Phayre's leaf monkey is native to Yunnan and a larger swath of Indochina. The capped and Shortridge's langurs live along the Yunnan-Myanmar border. The Nepal gray langur is larger than the lutungs and found in southern Tibet.
Whereas apes and monkeys are grouped as simians, lorises belong to a group of more primitive primates known as prosimians. Among other differences, most prosimians have moist nostrils like cats and dogs that enhance their sense of smell, while the simians have a simple, "dry nose." Lorises have big eyes, tiny ears, live in trees and are active at night. The pygmy slow loris and Bengal slow loris are both found in southern Yunnan and Guangxi and are Class I protected species.
The tiger is one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, and figures prominently in Chinese culture and history. Tiger bones are used in traditional Chinese medicine and tiger fur used for decoration. The animal is vulnerable to poaching and habitat loss. Four tiger subspecies are native to China. All are critically endangered, protected and live in nature reserves.
The Siberian tiger, the largest of all cats, are found in the Northeast, along the border with Russia and North Korea. The South China tiger is an endemic subspecies whose habitat is now confined to the mountain regions of Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong and Fujian. A few Indochinese tiger are known to live in Yunnan where six nature reserves have been established for the protection. As of 2001, a small population of 8-12 Bengal tigers were found in the Mêdog Nature Reserve in southern Tibet. A fifth tiger subspecies, the Caspian tiger, was last seen in the Manasi River basin of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the 1960s, and is now extinct.
The leopard is more widely spread across China, but confined to fragmented areas. The North China leopard, a subspecies considered threatened and protected by the state, is even found in the mountains around Beijing. The Amur leopard leopard is found in the Jilin along the border with Russia and North Korea and the Indochinese leopard in southern China. The range of the snow leopard extends across the Himalayas, Tibetan Plateau, Karakorum Mountains, and Tian Shan in western China. The clouded leopard, the smallest of the big cats, is found in forest regions across the southern half of the country below the Qinling Mountains. It became locally extinct in Taiwan in 1972.
Smaller cats in China include the Asian golden cat, Chinese mountain cat, jungle cat, wildcat, pallas's cat, marbled cat, leopard cat, fishing cat, and Eurasian lynx. Of these, the Chinese mountain cat is endemic to Sichuan, Qinghai, Ningxia and Shaanxi. Several smaller cat species including the leopard cat and lynx are hunted or trapped for their fur. The Asian golden cat is hunted for it bones, which are used as a substitute for tiger and leopard bones in traditional Chinese medicine.
Every cat species except the leopard cat and marbled cat is protected by the state.
Wolf, dhole, fox
The canidae family has several members in China including the gray wolf, dhole, red fox, corsac fox, Tibetan sand fox and raccoon dog. The gray wolf, the largest of the canids, has two subspecies in China—the Eurasian wolf, which is found across Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang in the northern fringe of the country, and the Tibetan wolf, which lives on the Tibetan Plateau. Some of the earliest dogs may have been domesticated in East Asia, and several Chinese dog breeds including the shar-pei and chow chow are among the most ancient in terms of DNA similarity to the gray wolf. The dhole is closely related to jackals and coyotes and found throughout the country. The red fox, the largest fox species, can be found in every part of China except the northwest. The corsac fox is found in northeastern China and the Tibetan sand fox in Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan. The raccoon dog, one of the few canids that can climb trees, is native to eastern and northeastern China.
Foxes (including the non-native arctic fox) and raccoon dogs are farmed for their fur. As many as 1.5 million foxes and about the same number of raccoon dogs were raised on Chinese farms in 2004.
The giant panda, perhaps China's most famous wildlife species, lives in six patches of highland valleys of the Min, Qionglai, Liang, Daxiangling, Xiaoxiangling and Qinling Mountains of the upper Yangtze River basin, which are spread over 45 counties in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi. Only about 1,600 live in the wild (80% in Sichuan) along with about 300 in captivity in Chinese breeding centers and zoos. The animal is rare and elusive. Though classified as a carnivore, the giant panda's diet is over 90% bamboo. Its black and white coloration provides a degree camouflage in the dense forests, but the adult animal has no natural predators. Giant pandas are notoriously difficult to breed; they have short mating periods, and give birth to only one or two cubs per year. The giant panda cub is the smallest baby, compared in proportion to the parents, of any placental mammal. The giant panda is considered to be a national treasure and is an endangered species protected by state law. Since the 1970s, giant pandas have been given or lent to foreign zoos as gesture of diplomatic goodwill.
Other more common bears in China include the Asiatic Black Bear and the brown bear which are found across much of the country. Sub-species of the brown bear include the Himalayan brown bear and the Tibetan blue bear in Tibet, and the Ussuri brown bear in Heilongjiang. The sun bear is found in Yunnan. Bears, especially black bears, are also raised in captivity to harvest their bile for use in traditional Chinese medicine.
The red panda, which unlike the giant panda is not a bear but a relative of the weasel family, is found in Sichuan and Yunnan.
The civet family of small furry mammals that feed on fruits, insects and rodents has numerous members throughout southern China.
The masked palm civet is considered a delicacy and is hunted and farm raised. In 2003, the coronavirus that caused the SARS epidemic was traced to masked palm civets. Several larger civets such as the large-spotted civet, Malayan civet and large Indian civet are also hunted and trapped for their meat. The small Indian civet is trapped and farm raised to harvest musk, which is used to make perfume and traditional Chinese medicine. Other civets species include the Asian palm civet, small-toothed palm civet, and Owston's palm civet.
Also in the civet family are the spotted linsang and binturong, which is also known as the bearcat. The binturong, which are common in Southeast Asia, is also found in southern Yunnan. The spotted linsang's range extends from Tibet to Guangdong. These two species, along with the large and small Indian civets, are Class II protected species.
Mongoose belong to a family closely related to civets. In China, they are considered beneficial animals because they eat rodents and snakes, which are considered to be pests. Mongoose have immunity from snake venom. Both the small Asian mongoose and crab-eating mongoose are found in southern China, Hainan and Taiwan.
Otter, badger, weasel, marten, wolverine
The largest family of carnivorous mammals belongs to the otters, badgers, weasels, martens, and wolverines, all of which are found in China. All of these mustelids are short, furry animals with short, rounded ears and thick fur, but they differ markedly in size, habit and habitat.
The sable, a species of marten, is prized for its fine fur, which along with ginseng and deer antler velvet, are known as the "three treasures of Manchuria." The sable is found in Manchuria (also called the Northeast) and Altai region of northern Xinjiang. The beech marten of western China and yellow-throated marten of southern China are closely related to the sable.
The Siberian weasel, known locally as the "Yellow Rat Wolf," is the most common weasel in China. It is found throughout China Proper and Manchuria, and known to steal poultry from farmers but helps to control the rodent population. Hair from the tail of the Siberian weasel is used to make ink brush for traditional Chinese calligraphy. Other weasel species include the least weasel and stoat in the north, yellow-bellied weasel and back-striped weasel in the south, and mountain weasel in the west. The steppe polecat is bigger than the Siberian weasel and found across northern China.
In Chinese, the wolverine is called "sable bear" because it is bigger than a sable and smaller than a bear and resembles both animals. The animal lives in caves and dens, which they do not dig but take from other animals such as bears, foxes and Bobak marmots. Wolverines are fierce creatures that will fight bears and wolves for food. They are found in the Greater Khingan range of Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia and the Altai Mountains of northern Xinjiang, and number only about 200.
The European otter is found throughout much of Eurasia and China. It is nearly extinct on Taiwan though some have been found on the island of Kinmen, off the coast of Fujian. The Oriental small-clawed otter is the smallest otter species and lives in mangrove and freshwater swamps of southern China and Taiwan. The smooth-coated otter is confined to parts of Yunnan and Guangdong.
Like sable and martens, otter fur is also used make clothing. Sables and wolverines are Class I protected species. Martens and otters are Class II protected species.
Badgers have distinctive white stripes on their faces with one long stripe that extends from nose to tail. The Asian badger is found throughout China Proper and the eastern Himalayas. The hog badger has a pig-like snout and has a slightly smaller range than the Asian badger. Ferret-badgers are the smallest badgers and two species live in China. The Chinese ferret-badger is found across much of southern China south of the Yangtze River and the Burmese ferret-badger along Yunnan's border with Laos and Vietnam.
Seals, sea lions
Seals and sea lions are also classified as carnivores and are divided between earless or true seals and eared seals. True seals do not have ears and cannot get their hind flippers underneath their bodies to crawl. Eared seals, which include sea lions, in contrast, have protruding ears and can "walk" with all four limbs on land.
True seals in China include the bearded seal which is found along the coast of Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong in the East and South China Sea, the ringed seal in the Yellow Sea, and spotted seal, which is primarily found in the Bohai Gulf and the northern Yellow Sea, but have been seen as far south as Guangdong. All seals are Class II protected animal. Sea lions have Class I protection.
The spotted seal is the only seal species that breeds in China. Its breeding grounds are found along the rim of Liaodong Bay in the Bohai Gulf, including the estuary at the mouth of the Shuangtaizi River near Panjin and Changxing Island near Dalian. The animal is poached for its fur and genitals, which is used to make an aphrodisiac. The habitat has also been damaged by land reclamation, fish farming, and petroleum development. A South Korean NGO has been trying to increase public awareness and support for the protection of the seals in China, North Korea and South Korea. Protection stations have been set up to monitor the breeding grounds and wildlife protection authorities compensate fisherman who turn in live seals caught in their nets. In April 2011, the construction of an express highway along the coast was halted due to its adverse impact on the seal breeding ground.
The northern fur seal, an eared seal, occasionally appears off the coast of eastern and southern China and southern Taiwan. The largest of the eared seals is the steller sea lion, who lives primarily in the Arctic but is also seen along the Yellow Sea coast in Jiangsu and Bohai Gulf in Liaoning. The Japanese sea lion, which became extinct in 1974, once inhabited the Yellow Sea and Bohai Gulf. The animal was considered a subspecies of the California sea lion until 2003 when taxonomists reclassified it as a distinct species. South Korea has proposed a joint effort with North Korea, Russia and China to reintroduce California sea lions to the waters of Northeast Asia.
Whales, dolphins, porpoise
The cetacean order of whales, dolphins and porpoises, which have the best adapted mammals to aquatic life, is broadly divided between baleen whales and toothed whales. Tooth whales are further subdivided into dolphins, river dolphins, porpoises and other true toothed whales, such as the sperm whale. China has cetacea species that live in both freshwater and the sea. The nearly extinct baiji dolphin and Chinese white dolphin are Class I protected species. All other cetaceans in China are Class II protected species.
The baiji dolphin, also known as the Yangtze dolphin or the Chinese river dolphin, is a critically endangered and possibly extinct species of freshwater dolphin found only in the Yangtze River of central China. The adult male baiji grows to 2.5 meters in length and weigh 230 kg. Females are smaller at 2.1 meters and 125 kg. It has a white belly, and is distinguishable from the gray finless porpoise that also inhabits the Yangtze. The baiji has poor eyesight and relies on sonar for navigation. It can swim up to 60 km/h and live over 20 years.
The baiji dolphin's habit historically covered much of the Yangtze River and its tributaries and lakes, from Yichang to Shanghai. It is mentioned in historical records going back 2,000 years. According to legend, the baiji dolphin is the reincarnation of a princess and called the "Goddess of the Yangtze." As recently as the 1950s, there were as many as 6,000 baiji dolphins in China, but their number fell to the hundreds by the 1980s, under 100 in the 1990s and fewer than a dozen since 2000.
The Yangtze River catchment area is one of the most densely populated areas in China and the world. The river, China's longest, is also a major highway for ships. Water and noise pollution, commercial fishing, and large propellars of ships are all major threats to the baiji. The building of the Gezhouba Dam in the 1970s and the Three Gorges Dam in the 1990s blocked the access of the dolphins upstream, altered the seasonal flow of the river, and enabled large ocean going ships to sail on the river. By 1997, a survey of the river found only 13 baiji. A Sino-Swiss joint survey of the river from Yichang to Shanghai in 2006 found no animals and declared the species to be functionally extinct, that is, even if a few individuals continued to survive, their numbers are too few to reproduce. In 2007, a resident near Tongling in Anhui Province videotaped a baiji dolphin leaping from the river four times. The last sighting confirmed by zoologist was in 2004 when a dead baiji dolphin washed ashore near Nanjing.
Nature reserves to protect the baiji dolphin were established along the Yangtze in Hunan, Hubei and Anhui province, along with observation and captive centers. The longest living baiji dolphin in captivity, Qiqi, lived in a dolphinarium in Wuhan from 1980 to 2002. The Tian-e-Zhou Oxbow Nature Reserve, created out of an oxbow bend in the Yangtze was designed as a captive breeding area for the baiji. One baiji was sent there in 1995 but died in 1996. The reserve is now a breeding ground for the finless porpoise.
The finless porpoise is a marine mammal related to dolphins and whales that lives in shallow water all along the coast of Asia from the Persian Gulf to Japan. A freshwater subspecies lives in the Yangtze, Gan and Xiang Rivers. Unlike dolphins, they lack a dorsal fin. The freshwater porpoise faces the same threat as the baiji. In April 2012, twelve were found dead in Dongting Lake in a span of 44 days. As of 2012, the Tian-e-Zhou Oxbow Nature Reserve had about 40 finless porpoises with another 85 in Dongting Lake and 300-400 in Boyang Lake. The freshwater finless porpoise, a Class II protected species, is rarer than the giant panda.
The Chinese white dolphin, previously considered to be a subspecies of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, lives in the waters off southern China, including the Pearl River Delta and Hong Kong, and western Taiwan. They are longer than the baiji dolphin and are light gray and pink in color. The Chinese white dolphin is a symbol of Hong Kong.
Other oceanic dolphin species include the rough-toothed, common bottlenose, Indo-Pacific bottlenose, pantropical spotted, spinner, striped, short-beaked common, long-beaked common, Fraser's, Pacific white-sided, and Risso's dolphin.
Baleen whales found in the ocean off China's coast include the blue whale, the world's largest animal, as well as the Bryde's, common minke, fin, sei, and humpback whale. The endangered North Pacific right whale have occasionally been sighted in the East China Sea and Yellow Sea.
Toothed whales, excluding dolphins, include the killer, false killer, pygmy killer, melon-headed, short-finned pilot, sperm, dwarf sperm, pygmy sperm, Cuvier's beaked, Blainville's beaked, ginkgo-toothed beaked whales.
In imperial times, villages along the coast of the Leizhou Peninsula in Guangdong hunted whales and made offerings of whale oil to the emperor in Beijing. The Republic of China was one of the early signatories of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. The People's Republic of China signed convention in September 1980 and banned domestic whaling in 1981.
Dugongs are marine mammals that feed entirely on vegetation such as seagrass. They are related to manatees in the Western Hemisphere. In China, dugongs are found along the coast of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, where the Hepu Dugong National Nature Reserve, near Beihai, was created in 1992 for their protection The dugong is a Class I protected species. They were hunted for their meat in the late 1950s and early 1960s during the Great Leap Forward. Dugongs are threatened by the loss of seagrass beds from coastal development.
Asian elephants once roamed a large swath of China, but are now confined to the Xishuangbanna and Pu'er Prefectures of southern Yunnan. Xishuangbana means 12 elephants in the local Thai language. In recent years, Chinese demand for ivory has led to a sharp increase in elephant poaching around the world. But thanks to strict enforcement of elephant protection laws with capital punishment for poachers and government financed feeding programs, the population of elephants within China from 1994 to 2014 roughly doubled to nearly 300.
Records and artwork from antiquity indicate that three species of Asian rhinoceros, the Indian, Javan and Sumatran, have lived in China. During the Shang Dynasty, some 3,000 years ago, rhinoceros ranged as far north as Inner Mongolia. By the beginning of the Han Dynasty, 2,200 years ago, they had disappeared from the Central Plains of northern China. During the Tang Dynasty, about 1,200 years ago, rhinos were found across southern China and the imperial zoo had a captive breeding program that returned some animals to the wild. Cooler climate in northern China may have caused rhinoceros habitat to shrink, but it was demand for rhino horns for use in traditional Chinese medicine, documented in as early as the Song Dynasty 1,000 years ago, that drove the animal toward extinction. In the Ming Dynasty about 650 years ago, rhinoceros were confined to Yunnan and Guizhou, and by the Qing Dynasty to only Yunnan. The Qing government limited the hunting of rhinos to only officials, and some 300 horns were harvested between 1900 and 1910. The collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 allowed individuals to hunt the animal. The last Sumatran rhino was killed in 1916, the last Indian rhino in 1920 and the last Javan rhino in 1922.
In 2010, a herd of nine southern white rhinoceros were imported from South Africa and shipped to Yunnan where they were kept in an wild animal park for acclimation. In March 2013, seven of the animals were shipped to the Laiyanghe National Forest Park, a habitat where Asian rhinoceros once lived. Two of the African rhinos began the process of being released into the wild on May 13, 2014.
The Przewalski's horse, the only species of wild horses never to have been domesticated, once roamed free in large parts of northwestern China but became locally extinct in 1957. In the 1980s, herds from Europe have been introduced to habitats in Xinjiang and Gansu.
China has a great variety of true deer and its close kin the musk deer. The largest deer is the moose, which is found in the Greater and Lesser Khingan ranges of the northeast. The moose stands 2 m tall and weighs as much 700 kg. In contrast, the lesser mouse-deer of Yunnan, which is just 45 cm in height and weighs 2 kg, is not much bigger than a rabbit.
China has both the elk and red deer, the second and fourth largest deer species, which until 2004 were considered the same species. The elk or wapiti of North America, has four subspecies in Asia – the Altai wapiti, Tian Shan wapiti, Manchurian wapiti and Alashan wapiti – all of which are present in China. The red deer, though quite common in Europe, has subspecies in China that are endangered. The Yarkand deer lives along the Tarim River in Xinjiang south of the Tian Shan. The Bactrian deer lives north of the Tian Shan in northern Xinjiang and Central Asian Republics. The Tibetan red deer, Gansu red deer, Sichuan deer have been alternatively categorized as subspecies of the elk or the Central Asian red deer.
The sambar deer, the third largest deer species, is found throughout southern China, and on the islands of Hainan and Taiwan. They live near water and are called "water deer" in Chinese. They should not be confused for the Chinese water deer, a smaller deer which are found in the Yangtze Delta region. The water deer only species of true deer without antlers.
Water deer, tufted deer and muntjacs are small deer with long upper canines that protrude like tusks. Muntjacs are known for their soft hide and tender meat. The Indian muntjac is found throughout southern China. The range of the Reeve's muntjac extends north to Gansu and to Taiwan. Fea's muntjac are found in eastern Tibet and the Gongshan muntjac in neighboring Yunnan. The Hairy-fronted muntjac is endemic to the mountains at the juncture of Anhui, Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Fujian and is a protected species. The tufted deer, a close relative of the muntjac, is found throughout central China.
Deer is prized in China for the velvet of their antlers. Antler velvet is rich in growth hormone and is used in traditional Chinese medicine. The most valuable antler velvet comes from the sika deer which is raised on farms. Several subspecies of the sika deer, including the Shanxi sika and the North China sika may have become extinct in the wild and survive exclusively in captivity. The Sichuan sika deer, another subspecies, was discovered in 1978 and lives in mountains of northern Sichuan and southern Gansu. The Formosan sika deer is endemic to Taiwan.
Reindeer, which are found in the forests of the Greater Khingan range in northern Inner Mongolia, are domesticated by the ethnic Ewenki and Oroqen people. The Oroqen call themselves, "people who use the reindeer." One branch of the Ewenki rely on reindeer to haul goods through swampy forests. They use reindeer milk and meat for nourishment, hides for clothing and tents, and antlers for medicine and income. The Kyrgyz people, who now reside in Central Asia and western Xinjiang, used to live in northeast Asia and regard the sika deer as a holy animal. According to Kyrgyz legend, the Kyrgyz Bugu tribe descended from a mother deer.
The sika deer is protected as a Class I endangered species by the state, though it is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as least concern. Another Class I protected deer is the Thorold’s or white-lipped deer. This large deer with a population of about 15,000 that is endemic to Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, Tibet and Yunnan, is considered vulnerable by the IUCN. The Chinese population of Eld's deer, a Class I protected species that is also considered endangered by IUCN, is found only on the island of Hainan. For decades, the Indochinese hog deer was believed to be extinct in China until a fawn was discovered in 2007 in the Yongde Daxueshan National Wildlife Reserve. The Indochinese hog deer is also protected by the state.
Perhaps the most remarkable endangered deer species in China is Père David's deer. This deer, colloquially known as the sibuxiang or the "Four-Not-Look-Alike", is said to have the hooves of an ox, antlers of a deer, neck of a camel and tail of a donkey, but does not look like any one animal. According to Chinese legend, this animal helped the ancient sage Jiang Ziya overthrow the tyrant king of the Shang Dynasty 4,000 years ago and became a symbol of good fortune. Chinese emperors kept the sibuxiang also called milu in imperial hunting parks, even as the animal became extinct in the wild, perhaps as early as 2,000 years ago. By 1866, when Father Armand David identified the animal, there were only 200-300 remaining in the Nanhaizi Royal Park in Beijing. A few animals were sold to zoos in Europe before 1894, when the park was flooded and some of the animals escaped only to be hunted and eaten. The last of the animals in China died during the chaos of the Boxer Rebellion. In 1898, Herbrand Russell, 11th Duke of Bedford assembled a herd of 18 animals from European zoos and bred them at his estate, Woburn Abbey in England. In 1985, 22 deer from this herd was reintroduced back to the Nanhaizi Park in Beijing and in 1986 another 39 were sent to Dafeng, in northern Jiangsu on the Yellow Sea. In 1998, eight animals in the latter herd were introduced into wilderness of the Dafeng Milu National Wildlife Reserve. By 2013, the reserve had 196 Père David's deer.
Musk deer and mouse-deer resemble small deer but are not true deer. They do not have antlers or facial scent glands. Male musk deer have scent glands that secrete deer musk, which is used for perfume, incense and medicine. Of the seven musk deer species in the world, six are found in China and five are endangered: the Anhui musk deer and dwarf musk deer of central China, the alpine musk deer of western China, the white-bellied musk deer and black musk deer of Tibet. The Siberian musk deer in the northeast is considered vulnerable. The lesser mouse-deer is found in southern Yunnan.
The grasslands, plateau and deserts of northern and western China are home to several species of antelope. The Mongolian gazelle, also known as the Zeren or yellow sheep, can run at speeds of up to 90 km/h and gather in herds by the thousands. They used to be spread over much of northern China but are now confined largely to Inner Mongolia. The Tibetan gazelle or goa antelope, is slightly smaller than the Mongolian gazelle, and lives on the Tibetan Plateau. The Przewalski's gazelle, whose males have distinctive horns that curl outward and then inward at the top, are extremely rare and endemic to a small region around Qinghai Lake on the northeastern part of the Tibetan Plateau. The goitered gazelle is about the same size as the Mongolian gazelle and is found throughout the Gobi Desert.
The Tibetan antelope, also known as chiru, is taller than the gazelles and has longer horns. It is endemic to the Tibetan Plateau and is endangered. The animal is poached for its fine wool, which is made by Kashmiri weavers into the Shahtoosh shawl. The film Kekexili: Mountain Patrol documents efforts to protect the animal from poaching. The Tibetan antelope was one of the mascots for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
The saiga antelope's horns are used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of ailments including the common cold. Despite its status as a Class I protected species, the saiga antelope has been poached to extinction in the Dzungar Basin of northern Xinjiang and is critically endangered in Central Asia and Russia. Chinese police routinely interdict large batches of smuggled horns into Xinjiang. Attempts have been made to reintroduce the saiga antelope to habitats in China.
The largest of these goat antelope is the takin, a relative of the musk ox. It lives in highlands from the eastern foothills of the Himalayas to the Qinling and shares habitat with the giant panda in Sichuan and Shaanxi. The takin is a Class I protected species.
Serows are smaller than takins but significantly larger than gorals. Both serows and gorals live in rainy mountainous regions and are excellent climbers. Serows have shorter and coarser wool than gorals. The Mainland serow is spread across southern China. The range of the Chinese goral is even broader, extending to Korea in the northeast. The long-tailed goral lives in the northeast, along the borders with Russia and North Korea. The Himalayan serow, Himalayan goral, and red goral are found in southern Tibet. The Taiwan serow is endemic to Taiwan.
Mountain sheep and goat
The argali or mountain sheep, the Asian cousin of the North American bighorn sheep has nine subspecies, seven of which are found in northern and western China, including the Marco Polo sheep, which the Venetian traveler reported observing in the Pamir mountains.
The Himalayan blue sheep, with much smaller horns than the argali, are agile climbers on Himalayan cliffs. The Dwarf blue sheep is found in western Sichuan. The Himalayan tahr, discovered in China in 1974, is a Class I protected species with perhaps only 500 animals in southern Tibet.
Cattle, camel, pig
There are large numbers of domesticated gaur, yak and Bactrian camel in China but in the wild, they are Class I protected species. The gaur or Indian bison is the tallest species of cattle and found in southern Tibet and Yunnan. Domesticated gaur, called gayal, is raised by farmers in Yunnan. Yaks are the largest animals on the Tibetan Plateau. Wild yaks are larger than domestic yaks and slightly smaller than the gaur. They can tolerate extremely cold climate, climb steep slopes, and ford fierce rapids. Yaks are the imost important animal for Tibetan herders, who eat yak meat and milk for food, burn yak dung as fuel, spin yak hair into fabric, make yak hide leather and use yaks to transport and plow fields. Bactrian camels have two humps and can go a month or longer without drinking water. A thirsty Bactrian camel can drink 135 liters (30 gallons) in only 13 minutes. They can with withstand extremely hot and cold weather and have broad hooves that do not sink in desert. Bactrian camels are known as the "boats of desert" – for millennia, they are used to carry good along the Silk Road. Wild camels are critically endangered and found in the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts.
The wild boar, from which the farm-raised pigs was domesticated some 8,000 years ago in China, remains common in the Chinese wilderness. On occasion, boars will interbreed with farm-raised pigs. The Manchurian wild boar is the largest of the wild boar species. The Formosan wild boar is a subspecies endemic to Taiwan.
The pangolin, a scaley anteater that feed on ants and termites and curl into a ball when threatened, is prized in China for its flesh, which is considered a delicacy and scales, which used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat among other ailments, inadequate lactation in breast-feeding mothers. The Chinese pangolin is found throughout southern China, Hainan and Taiwan and the sunda pangolin in western Yunnan. In Chinese, the pangolin is called "that which wears mountain armor" and the animal is believed by local shamans to hold magical powers such that hunters must utter incantation before killing them to ward off bad luck. As a Class II protected species, trading of wild pangolins is prohibited, but poaching and illegal trade remains rampant. The pangolin can be farm-raised, but pangolin farms must generally also raise termites to feed the livestock. In recent years, Chinese customs have intercepted large shipments of pangolin from Southeast Asia and Africa.
The porcupine, called haozhu or "pig with long thin hair" in Chinese, should not be confused with hedgehog, ciwei or the "thorned creature." Porcupines are rodents and hedgehogs belong to a separate order. Three species of Old World porcupine are found in China: the Asiatic brush-tailed porcupine, Indian crested porcupine, and Malayan porcupine. Many parts of the porcupine including the brain, organs, fat, quills and even the feces can be used to make traditional Chinese medicine. Porcupines are raised on farms.
In the early 20th century, the Eurasian beaver was hunted to near extinction for its fur and castoreum, a scent gland secretion used to make perfume and medicine. Though the global population has rebounded, the animal remains a Class I protected species. The Bulgan Beaver Nature Reserve in Qinggil County of northern Xinjiang, at the source of the Irtysh and Ulungur River along the border with Mongolia, was created in 1980 to protect the beaver. In 2007, there were 145 beaver colonies with an estimated population of 500-600 beavers in the reserve.
Squirrels are called songshu or "pine rodent" in Chinese but not all species live in trees. The squirrel family includes tree squirrels, flying squirrels, ground squirrels, rock squirrels, marmots and chipmunks, which are all found in China, often in great variety.
The red squirrel common in Europe and the black giant squirrel of Southeast Asia are found, respectively, in the northern and southern parts of China. Other tree squirrel species include the Pallas's, inornate, phayre's, Irrawaddy, Anderson's, orange-bellied Himalayan, Perny's long-nosed, red-hipped, Asian red-cheeked, Himalayan striped, Maritime striped, and Swinhoe's Striped Squirrel.
Flying squirrels are found in almost every part of China, from the Himalayas to the tropical island of Hainan to the rural outskirts of Beijing. Flying squirrel species include the groove-toothed, complex-toothed, hairy-footed, particolored, Indochinese, red giant, red and white giant, spotted giant, Indian giant, Chinese giant, Japanese giant, Bhutan giant, Siberian, Yunnan giant (petaurista yunnanensis), and Hodgson's giant. Several are endemic to China.
Flying squirrels are timid creatures that are active at nighttime and use the patagium, a membrane connecting the fore and hind limbs to glide from trees. They do not build nests and live in caves or rock crevices. They also defecate at specific locations, which facilitates the harvest of their fecal pellets. The pellets are made into wulingzhi, a traditional Chinese medicine used to facilitate blood flow and ease pain. Flying squirrel pellets can accumulate on the floor of caves for years and not rot. Several species of flying squirrels are farm-raised to produce wulingzhi.
The groove-toothed flying squirrel, also known as the North Chinese flying squirrel, is endemic to eastern Hebei Province and the suburbs of Beijing in North China and northern Sichuan. The complex-toothed flying squirrel is endemic to southern China.
In China, ground squirrels are found in arid regions of the north and west where the animals live in burrels. Ground squirrel species include the Alashan, Daurian, Red-cheeked, long-tailed and yellow ground squirrel.
Two species of rock squirrels are endemic to China, the Père David's rock squirrel, which is found across a wide swath of the country from the mountains around Beijing to Gansu and Sichuan, and the Forrest's rock squirrel, found only in the mountains dividing the Yangtze and Mekong River watershed in northwestern Yunnan.
The Siberian chipmunk, the only chipmunk species found outside North America, has six subspecies in China, all in northern parts of the country. The animal is raised as pets and for its tender flesh, fine fur and ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine.
The Marmot, called hanta in Chinese for "land" or "dry otter," is related to ground squirrels but are bigger, have shorter tails and are more social animals. They can grow to be the size of a cat and live in large colonies. Four species are found in China, all along the northern and western periphery of the country: gray, long-tailed, Himalayan, and Tarbagan. Of these, the tarbagan marmot is an endangered, Class III protected species. Marmots are also farm-raised for food and fur.
Jerboas, birch mouse, jumping mouse
In Chinese, jerboas and jumping mouse are called tiaoshu or the "jumping rodent," and birch mouse is called jueshu or the "falling" or "stomping rodent." Jerboas, jumping mouse and birch mouse all have long hind legs that are used to make long leaps. Species in China include the Balikun jerboa, Gobi jerboa, small five-toed jerboa, Mongolian five-toed jerboa, dwarf fat-tailed jerboa, five-toed pygmy jerboa, thick-tailed pygmy jerboa, Kozlov's pygmy jerboa, northern three-toed jerboa, Andrews's three-toed jerboa, Mongolian three-toed jerboa, thick-tailed three-toed jerboa, long-eared jerboa, long-tailed birch mouse, southern birch mouse, Tien Shan birch mouse and Chinese jumping mouse.
Zokors, bamboo rats
Zokors have strong front limbs for digging. Zokor bones are used in traditional Chinese medicine and can substitute tiger bones. The Chinese zokor, Rothschild's zokor and Smith's zokor are endemic to China. The range of the Chinese zokor extends across north China from Qinghai to Beijing while the that of Rothschild's and Smith's zokors are confined to Gansu, Shaanxi, Hubei and Qinghai. The false zokor and Transbaikal zokor are found along China's border region with Russia and Mongolia.
All four bamboo rat species in the world are found in China: the Chinese bamboo rat south of the Yangtze, hoary bamboo rat in southwest China, large bamboo rat in Xishuangbanna in southern Yunnan and lesser bamboo rat and western Yunnan. The large bamboo rat can weigh as much as 5 kg. The flesh of the bamboo rat is rich in protein and low in fat. Bamboo rat oil can be used to treat burn wounds.
Both the zokor and bamboo rat are farm-raised for their fur, meat and use in medicine.
Hamsters, lemmings, voles
About half of the world's 25 species of hamsters are found in China. Most live in the deserts of Xinjiang, Gansu and Inner Mongolia. Some are named after the specific region in which they are found, such as the Chinese, Mongolian, Gansu, Chinese striped, Tibetan dwarf, Kham dwarf, and Djungarian hamster, and some by their founder, such as Campbell's dwarf, Roborovski, and Sokolov's dwarf. Others include the gray dwarf, long-tailed dwarf and greater long-tailed hamster. The Chinese hamster and Roborovski hamster have been bred as pets and found in homes throughout the world.
The avifauna of China includes a total of 1314 species, of which 52 are endemic, two have been introduced by humans, and 55 are rare or accidental. One species listed is extirpated in China and is not included in the species count. Eighty seven species are globally threatened.
China has a big variety of reptiles including the Chinese alligator, Chinese crocodile and the Chinese water dragon.
Other animals native to China
- Asiatic Brush-tailed Porcupine (Atherurus macrourus)
- Amur Hedgehog (Erinaceus amurensis)
- Black-bellied Hamster (Cricetus cricetus)
- Black-necked Crane
- Brown rat
- Chinese Dormouse (Chaetocauda sichuanensis)
- Chinese Giant Salamander (Andrias davidianus)
- Chinese Hare (Lepus sinensis)
- Chinese Mole Shrew (Anourosorex squamipes)
- Chinese Monal
- Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla)
- Chinese Rufous Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus sinicus)
- Common Spoonbill
- Dice snake
- Elaphe bimaculata
- Ethmostigmus rubripes
- Eurasian Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius)
- Gloydius blomhoffii
- Glover's Pika (Ochotona gloveri)
- Gobi Jerboa (Allactaga bullata)
- Golden Pheasant
- Grass Snake
- Great Gerbil (Rhombomys opimus)
- Hainan Hare
- Indotestudo elongata
- Large Mole (Mogera robusta)
- Long-eared Jerboa
- Manchurian Hare
- Ovophis monticola
- Northern Treeshrew (Tupaia belangeri)
- Pacific cod
- Painted Bat (Kerivoula picta)
- Pelochelys cantorii
- Protobothrops jerdonii
- Rafetus swinhoei (Yangzte Giant Softshell Turtle)
- Red-crowned crane
- Short-tailed Gymnure (Hylomys suillus)
- Sichuan Niviventer (Niviventer excelsior)
- Trimeresurus gramineus
- Trimeresurus mangshanensis
- Trimeresurus medoensis
- Trimeresurus stejnegeri
- Yunnan Hadromys (Hadromys yunnanensis)
Notes and references
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- IUCN Initiatives – Mammals – Analysis of Data – Geographic Patterns 2012. IUCN. Retrieved 24 April 2013. Data does not include species in Taiwan.
- Countries with the most bird species. Mongabay.com. 2004 data. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
- Countries with the most reptile species. Mongabay.com. 2004 data. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
- IUCN Initiatives – Amphibians – Analysis of Data – Geographic Patterns 2012. IUCN. Retrieved 24 April 2013. Data does not include species in Taiwan.
- Top 20 countries with most endangered species IUCN Red List. 5 March 2010. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
- "Nature Reserves". China.org.cn. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
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