Masked Palm Civet
Masked Palm Civet (Paguma larvata) also known as Himalayan Palm Civet, is commonly seen at both Labahe and Tangjiahe. Most of the sightings are nocturnal, many of animals expertly climbing trees, but occasionally an animal that has been caught scavenging in a waste bin or even a hotel dining room or kitchen. An adaptive species they seem to be widespread but may suffer from persecution through hunting.

 

Leopard Cat
Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) is widely distributed but most often seen at Labahe, Tangjiahe and the Wolong area. Being a secretive and stealthy species that can be difficult to find, sightings are nearly all nocturnal and their frequency seems to be linked with mating activity or prey abundance. Being a small cat with attractive spotted markings it is easy to identify with only feral domestic cats likely to cause confusion. Although the international pet trade offers domesticated varieties and archaeological evidence suggests it was historically domesticated, we have never seen pet leopard cats and no sign of hybridization with domestic cats.

 

Chinese Mountain Cat
Chinese Mountain Cat (Felis bieti) also known as Chinese Desert Cat is regularly seen on the Ruoergai Grasslands. We find the animal in variety of habitats, and although it will hunt after Plateau Pika it is not restricted to pika pasture and will hunt prey species, that must include birds and rodents, in long grasses and low scrub. Mostly found during nocturnal drives, but in pika rich habitats, where pikas are only active on the surface during daylight hours, it can also be observed during daytime. It is sometimes found in close proximity to Pallas’s Cat, especially in areas of high pika density. Yak herders have told us that kittens are sometimes taken as pets and have occasionally seen cats close to herder tents. We have also seen at least one animal with white markings that seemed to be a domestic hybrid and suspect that an association with domestic cats could pose a threat. At one stage it was placed as a subspecies of Wild Cat but has now been given seperate species status. This cat has been found on grassland, rocky terrain and on forest edge habitat at Baxi. Our photographs and film of this animal were among the first to be taken in the wild. Two 2016 client videos can be found here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af5R9PODOBw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hz4bgF3nG8A  

 

Mountain Cat
here a Chinese Mountain Cat is pictured, during a night trip, in a grassland habitat. The mound in front of it is made  by Zokor.

 

Pallas's Cat
Pallas’s Cat (Otocolobus manu) is another regular sighting on the Tibetan Plateau, being found both in Sichuan and Qinghai, The cats we see are closely associated with Plateau Pika colonies and pikas must make up a substantial proportion of its diet. Since Pikas are only active on the surface during daylight hours Pallas’s Cat are often seen hunting just after dawn. It has a comical hunting method, where it lies low and crawls on its belly towards its prey. Looking like a stone in the grass, the low-profile cat is difficult to see and only excited tail movements are obvious giveaways to scanning mammal watchers. Otherwise, we frequently see it during daytime sleeping on a prominent ridge or among stones and it will often hide in nearby depressions or marmot burrows. Nocturnal sightings have also been made, which are mostly of sleeping animals but night-time hunting activity is indicated in a 2016 client video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AT64kRu6g4&t=15s . The cat is easy to distinguish from similarly sized Chinese Mountain Cat, which might share habitat and even breeding sites, by the its small rounded ears, as opposed to the tall pointed ones of Mountain Cat, a prominent white chin and overall steely grey pelage with delicate black banding. Like the Mountain cat its larger than the average domestic cat but much of size must be due to its thick pelage, which is necessary to survive the harsh plateau winter climate. We have found Pallas’s Cat pelts being offered for sale at local souvenir counters and although we have never witnessed poaching activity, there must be a certain amount of persecution.

 

Eurasian Lynx
Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx) is another cat we see on the grasslands of the Tibetan Plateau – occasionally in Sichuan but most often in Qinghai. It has been seen hunting Wooly Hare and favoured habitat seems to be on the edge of alpine scrub and woodlands. The species must have been more widespread before logging activity reduced the size of native forest but may still exist, and go undetected, in large tracts of upland forest that are rich in ungulates and other prey species. Seen during the day, we find at long range using telescope scanning, which is an obvious reason why open grassland is the easiest place to find this species.

 

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) like lynx the Snow Leopard is easiest to observe at distance using scope scanning. On the Tibetan Plateau many large vistas of rocky crags, especially those rich in Blue Sheep are worth scoping. We most often see in Qinghai but there are also sites in Sichuan and it’s also been recorded by camera trap on Balang Mountain. Finding a leopard can take some days and you may need to find a kill, which are sometimes signposted by magpies and circling vultures. Leopards will often drag a kill into more secluded areas and can take a couple days over a kill. We mostly see them feeding off Blue Sheep or young domestic yak. Because of their yak predation they have been subject to persecution but hopefully new nature reserves and schemes where mammal watchers and tourists pay local herders, as Snow Leopard guides, will increase protection levels.

 

Snow Leopard with yak
Although Snow Leopard will take domestic stock, this bull yak is far too big to be a serious prey option. Both animals are passing each other on the grassland and being very deffensive over the encounter.

 

Leopard
Leopard (Panthera pardus) are also seen in the same habitat as Snow Leopard in Qinghai. It’s not known whether their occurrence is something to do with global warming or because of increased observation but several sightings have now been made. The subspecies that is involved must be the rare Northern Chinese Leopard P.p. japonensis which in recent literature has been added to the equally rare Amur Leopard P.p. orientalis. Formerly, Leopard was a widespread Chinese species, but habitat loss and human spread now means that it is seldom seen but, apart from those animals found on the Tibetan Plateau, there are still possibilities of animals surviving in the large panda reserves of Sichuan and Shaanxi. Amur Leopard must also be present in NE China while Indian Leopard may occur in the mountains and jungle of China’s southern borders. An account (excuse the strange grammar – auto-translated from Chinese) of an encounter with Leopard has been given by our guide Zeng Zhang - https://www.mammalwatching.com/wp-content/uploads/Leopard-at-Qinghai.pdf