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This chapter comprises the following sections: names, taxonomy, subspecies and distribution, descriptive notes, habitat, movements and home range, activity patterns, feeding ecology, reproduction and growth, behavior, parasites and diseases, status in the wild, and status in captivity.
Records of the Vulnerable Chinese mountain cat Felis bieti are known from the eastern border of the Tibetan Plateau, mostly from Qinghai province, but also from other areas further north, east and north-west. Disagreement regarding the reliability of some records has led to uncertainty about the species' distribution. In order to obtain information about its current distribution and status we conducted surveys in various Chinese provinces and evaluated former records and specimens. Forty-five specimens and living individuals were examined, and 189 records were gathered from local sources. Our data confirm that this cat is endemic to China, and occurs in montane forest edge, alpine shrubland and meadow habitats. At present it is confined to the provinces of eastern Qinghai and northern Sichuan. Its wild populations are facing a number of threats and environmental pressures such as poaching, use of chemical rodenticides, and environmental changes. We recommend moving this species to Category I of Chinese law, enforcement of its protection in reserves, and the establishment of new reserves, specifically for this species, in areas in which it is currently unprotected.
Nutrient use by the red panda Ailurus fulgens was measured in animals fed only on their natural bamboo Bashania spanostachya diet. The project was carried out at the field observation station of Yele Natural Reserve in Sichuan, China. Two-week long trials were conducted at monthly intervals from May to November 1995. Results showed that dry matter digestibility differed significantly among seasons and between diets. Digestibilities of dry matter and key nutrients were high in summer–autumn, intermediate in spring and low in winter. Shoots were more easily digested than leaves and exhibited the highest digestibility. These variations were positively correlated with nutrient contents in bamboo. The results also indicated that the red panda poorly processed its bamboo food. This was demonstrated by the lower digestion coefficients of dry matter and nutrients, especially that of cell wall constituents. This implied that microbial digestion only played a minor role in its digestive strategy, similar to the giant panda Ailuropoda melanoleuca, another herbivorous carnivore. In addition, the transit of bamboo through the red panda gut was very rapid (2–4 h). In order to survive on this poor-quality diet, it seems that the red panda has to select high-quality items of bamboo such as tender leaves and shoots. These are ingested in large quantities (over 1.5 kg of fresh leaves and 4 kg of fresh shoots daily) that pass through the digestive tract fairly rapidly so as to maximize nutrient intake.
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