Images capture wild cat at highest elevation to date

Updated: Jan 31, 2024 By Yan Dongjie China Daily Print
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Images of an Asian golden cat have been captured at a record high elevation in the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon National Nature Reserve in Metog county, Xizang autonomous region.

The infrared footage was recorded at an elevation of 4,415 meters, surpassing the previous record of 4,300 meters in Lhari county, Nagchu, Xizang.

The Asian golden cat is a first-class national protected wild species and has been listed as near threatened on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List.

According to Li Cheng, an expert on the Asian golden cat from Xizijiang Ecological Conservation Center, the global population of these cats has experienced a significant decline in recent years due to factors such as the loss and fragmentation of habitat.

"In China, sightings of the Asian golden cat have been recorded in places such as southeastern Xizang, western Sichuan, western and southern Yunnan, southern Gansu and southern Shaanxi in the past two years. Currently, the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon region hosts a relatively large population of these cats," he said.

"Moreover, the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon area is one of the most diverse and complex regions in terms of the color variations of the Asian golden cat. At present, at least six color variations have been recorded, including tawny, reddish-brown, deep red, marbled, gray and black. The genetic diversity here is relatively well preserved," he added.

"In the infrared camera footage, an adult Asian golden cat was seen surveying the ridgeline of a high-altitude meadow before slowly passing in front of the camera," Zhao Xiang, director of the Shan Shui Conservation Center, a nongovernment organization dedicated to species conservation.

Li said Asian golden cats generally inhabit tropical and subtropical forests. At elevations of over 4,000 meters, where snow covers the ground for half of the year, it is the domain of snow leopards, rather than the typical habitat for Asian golden cats.

"The discovery of the Asian golden cat at such a high altitude not only enhances our understanding of their behavior but also indicates their broad range of activity and good adaptability," he added.

The forestry and grassland bureau of Metog county, in collaboration with the Shan Shui Conservation Center, the Peking University Center for Nature Conservation and Social Development, and the Xizijiang Ecological Conservation Center, has conducted infrared camera surveys with the support of the China Green Carbon Foundation and the Zhongjin Public Welfare Foundation.

The research team has set up 304 infrared cameras, recording over 300 instances of Asian golden cat activity at 105 locations, ranging from 812 to 4,415 meters in elevation.



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