China is home to 13 of the world’s 37 wild cat species, and provides habitat for the last strongholds of some of the most endangered. The WI’s work on wild felids is broad, covering a variety of topics vital to their conservation, including: their basic ecology; their relationships with other carnivores and their prey; building capacity for nature reserve staff to monitor and protect them; and finally their relationship with local communities mainly through the understanding of human-wild felid conflicts.
The official projects that fall into this category have been listed below, as well as further sub-categories of projects for specific species.
2011–2014: Assemblage structure and niche width of wild felids inhabiting subtropical forests in China (Supported by: State Forestry Administration-China [SFA]).
2011–2014: Microstructure of skulls presenting foraging strategies in wild Felids inhabiting alternated ecosystems (Potentially supported by: SFA)
2010–2013: “Building Capacity for Wild Felid Conservation in China” (BFU-WI & The University of Oxford; Supported by UK Darwin Initiative); Leading to creation of the "China Cat Conservation Monitoring Network in China (CCCM-Network)" (http://www.chinafelid.org).
2008–2010: Suitability of nature reserves for large carnivores (Supported by: National "Eleventh Five-Year" plan)
2012–2013: Clouded leopards as umbrella species associated with forest carbon and biodiversity (Potentially collaborating with WildCRU, University of Oxford).
Leopard In China the leopard (Panthera pardus) is a Class I protected species and according to the Overall Plan of National Wildlife Conservation and Construction Engineering of Nature Protected Areas, presented by the State Forestry Administration (SFA), it is among 13 especially important species for conservation and restoration. Distribution and present status is however poorly understood and although leopards were once widely distributed across the country, they are becoming increasingly rare. Leopards also suffer from depletion of prey, especially wild ungulates, but the most important threat today is habitat fragmentation through logging, farming, mining, expanding settlements and road construction. Although the leopard is a highly adaptable species able to exist in a number of very different habitats, resilient to human disturbance and with a variable prey base, the present situation shows that leopard populations are now more vulnerable because they are small, fragmented and isolated. The restriction of dispersal operated by landscape features compromises gene flow across populations and may cause fitness depression due to inbreeding and genetic drift, resulting in an increase of extinction risks. To ensure their survival in the long-term, crucial information on leopard ecology and conservation, including distribution, population structure and landscape genetics are urgently needed for planning effective population management and habitat conservation strategies.
2011–2014: Distribution, dispersal and differentiation meta-population of leopards affected by habitat fragment in China (Supported by: SFA)
Snow Leopard The snow leopard, listed as a Class I protected species in China, is sparsely distributed within the mountainous region of Central Asia. The species is found in 12 range countries, namely China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Mongolia. China, one of the world’s most bio-diverse nations, is of particular importance as its area borders all of other range states and contains the greatest proportion of the world's snow leopards.
The Wildlife Institute, in collaboration with the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology and State Forestry Administration (SFA), is undertaking a programme of snow leopard conservation projects, focusing on ecological research and capacity building of local and national institutions. The majority of the WI’s current work on snow leopards has been carried out in Xinjiang, Gansu, Sichuan, Tibet and Inner Mongolia. In 2009, the WI initiated its field surveys on snow leopard distribution and population densities in order to identify corridors: secure and interlinked crucial habitats for the long-term survival of snow leopards. These surveys are combined with assessment of snow leopard prey populations and conflict with local livestock herders. In addition to research on the ground, the WI is carrying out behavioral research on captive snow leopard in Shangdong Province, in relation to welfare and husbandry practices.
This research links with the UK Darwin Initiative funded project “Building capacity for wild felid conservation in China”, in collaboration with the Oxford University, which focuses on training management and ground staff on how to assess and monitor wild cat populations.
A significant overarching goal of this work is to inform China’s snow leopard action planning, in order to enhance and prioritize snow leopard conservation across the country.
2009–2015: Project on conservation and study of snow leopard in China (In collaboration with WildCRU, University of Oxford).
2012–2015: Field survey on distribution and population density of snow leopard in Taxkurgan and Boertara, Xinjiang, China (Supported by: SFA; see http://www.xinjiangsnowleopards.org).
2010–2015: Ecological evaluation on the population and habitat of snow leopard in Gansu, Tibet and Qinghai provinces (Supported by: SFA).
2010–2011: Snow leopard conservation and monitoring in western Sichuan (Supported by: SFA).
2009–2010: Population and habitat restoration of snow leopard in Mt. West Kunlun (Supported by SFA)
2008–2010: Study on key techniques for lifting endangered species including snow leopard and plateau pheasants in ecologically sensitive regions (Supported by Ministry of Science and Technology)
Tiger The WI’s work on the Tiger includes 3 sub-species, the South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis) classified extinct in the wild, the Bengal tiger (P.t.tigris) and the Indo-Chinese tiger (P.t.corbetti), both listed as Endangered on the IUCN’s redlist. Initial projects have begun to mainly look at the ecology of the Indo-Chinese tiger in the southwest of China, in areas bordering Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. Further work is being conducted by PhD student Charlotte Whitham, that further looks at human-wildlife interactions and how this relates to the requirements of top predators such as tigers as well as the potential conflicts that might be experienced if their populations were to expand.
2012–2013: Study on habitat restoration and optimization of Indo-Chinese tiger in China（Supported by: SFA).
2011–2012: Field survey and monitoring of Indo-Chinese tiger in China（Supported by: SFA)
2010–2011: Technological research on field survey and monitoring of Indo-Chinese tigers（Supported by: SFA)