Over the Christmas and New Years period I was blessed to have two of my good friends from back home come to China to visit me, and also see what it was about this country that had me raving. Not surprisingly, as part of the visit, they both wanted to see where I had been living and working for the previous 10 months. I was also keen to share with them a glimpse of rural China, and a chance for them to see the nature reserve. So two days of animal tracking in Changqing National Nature Reserve was included in the itinerary!
We had a fabulous time following one of our most experienced guides here Mr Xiang, a known panda expert – who has eyes like a hawk. As mentioned in one of my previous blogs, while very cold, winter here is also a great time to visit our reserve due to an increased chance to see some animals who have come further down the mountain for the cold weather. Mr Xiang picked up the slightest movements from hundreds of meters away, and through following animal scats, footprints in the snow, sound and movements we ended up seeing numerous animals, including two Internationally Endangered animals: the Golden Takin (Budorcas taxicolor bedfordi) and Golden Monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana qinlingenis) and one Internationally Critically Endangered bird, the Crested Ibis (Nipponia nippon).
One of the highlights of our time was coming across a set of cat and Takin prints, which led to a recent Takin carcass. After silently following the cat’s prints further up the mountain, Mr Xiang, who was up the front of the group, spotted the offending leopard – but unfortunately the rest of us were too slow and loud!
Changqing staff weren’t sure whether cats were still present in the reserve until the introduction of infrared cameras in March 2008 confirmed their presence. In addition to the confirmed presence of leopards and golden cats, the cameras discovered that Mountain Hawke Eagles (Nisaetus nipalensis) also reside in Changqing. In total, Dr Dajun Wang from Peking University in collaboration with Shan Shui Conservation Centre and Conservation International has placed 34 of these small cameras in various locations within the reserve. These cameras provide Changqing staff with vital information about the native fauna, its behaviour and location within the reserve, as photos are taken when they are behaving ‘naturally’, with no human presence.
To view some footage from cameras such as these, refer to WildChina’s blog: Eyes in the Forest: “Trapping” Wildlife with Cameras, Emma September 9, 2009.