The last leg of our Chinese mammal-watching extravaganza was a visit to Tangjiahe Nature Reserve. It was a long transfer to Tangjiahe but we made good time to Chengdu where we dropped off Erling. Sadly he wouldn’t be joining us in Tangjiahe. We stopped in the town of Qingxi for dinner and were entertained by the owner making fresh noodles for our soup.
We finally arrived in Tangjiahe well after dark and took the opportunity to do a bit of spotlighting along the main road. We saw our first Takin and several Reeves' Muntjac along the way. The Takin is a big draw for the reserve. It’s a strange looking beast resembling a cross between a goat and an antelope. The Takin is considered vulnerable by the IUCN due to overhunting and habitat loss. In China, it is listed as endangered and is protected by law.
After checking into our very comfortable hotel, we walked along a trail above the river. We saw more Takin, Reeves' Muntjac and our first Northern Hog Badger. Care had to be taken when returning to our hotel room as the Takin like to graze on the hotel lawns. They can get quite ornery if you surprise one but we had no such encounters.
We didn’t get up early for the following morning’s walk so missed close encounters with a Masked Palm Civet and Northern Hog Badger. We vowed to drag ourselves out of bed on subsequent mornings. My disappointment was soon forgotten when I spotted a large dark shape in a tree across the river. Through my binoculars, I could see that it was an Asiatic Black Bear, a lifer for us! Also called a Moon Bear because of the white V-shaped marking on its chest, the Asiatic Black Bear is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN mainly due to hunting for bear bile. In this case, the medicinal value of bear bile is real owing to the active ingredient of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA). In controlled, clinical trials UDCA has been shown to have many of the medicinal properties claimed by traditional Chinese medicine such as reducing fever and inflammation, detoxifying the liver, arresting convulsions, improving eyesight, and dissolving gallstones. Although a synthetic alternative is available many Chinese prefer bear bile as it is believed to be more effective. To reduce the pressure on wild bear populations, China and several other Asian countries now have Asiatic Black Bears farms were bile is extracted from live bears, a practice that is harmful to the bears and creates a demand for wild cubs to restock these farms. The best solution is to convince consumers that synthetic UDCA is just as effective as bear bile and that purchasing living bear UDCA is morally wrong.
We rushed to get the rest of the group as they had wandered off to wait for the bus into the reserve. They were just as ecstatic as us and for most of the group, this too was their first Asiatic Black Bear. We crossed the river on the footbridge to get a closer view and some photos. After snapping many, we left the bear in peace to continue feeding on fruits.
We took the next bus high into the reserve spotting a troupe of Tibetan Macaques along the way. We walked back along the road on high alert for Golden Snub-nosed Monkeys. Phil spotted two high up on a distant ridge but the rest of the group missed them. We joined Roland and Sarah on a mission to climb the ridge to locate them. It was very steep going with a lot of tree-grabbing to hoist ourselves up. When we arrived close to the top the monkeys were nowhere to be seen but it was a grand adventure nonetheless.
|Climbing the Ridge|
After lunch, we took a bus back into the reserve and were dropped off at the rangers’ station. We had reports that a Tufted Deer was hanging out there. Sure enough, a habituated individual emerged from the bushes and wandered to a plate of rice that the rangers had left for it. This deer is native to China and is hunted by locals so we were lucky to great views of this species that is normally difficult to see.
After dinner, we went on our first proper night drive. We spotted Takin, Chinese Goral, Northern Hog Badger, our only Chinese Serow (in this reserve) and a tiny bat hanging from a limestone cliff. Phil thought that is was a Japanese or Chinese Pipistrelle but bats are tough to identify.
We did join the early morning walk but the Northern Hog Badger that was so obliging yesterday was nowhere to be found. We spotted Takin and Reeves' Muntjac only. Today we opted to explore another part of the reserve since a large number of dignitaries had arrived for the annual “Fall Foilage Celebration”. We drove down the road and took a public bus to the start of our hike up the Motainling Valley. There was a large group of Chinese tourists but we soon left them behind as we started the climb. Birds were the star today as the mammals remained elusive. Roland was on the hunt for Temminck’s Tragopan and took us off-trail to find them. Sadly, no such luck. We returned to the main trail where a Chinese woman desperately sought our attention. She excitedly pointed to her iPhone and then to the bushes. I rushed up to her and saw that she had a beautiful photo of a Temminck’s Tragopan. We searched the area and Marc was able to get a decent shot.
We continued to the top to the ridge to scan for mammals. Sometimes Giant Pandas are seen here but we weren’t so lucky. The stunning view of the Motainling Valley was ample reward for our efforts.
We did another night drive after dinner seeing the same cast of characters but Roland did find us a new species, a Malayan Porcupine.
We were rewarded for getting out of bed early the next morning with a beautiful Leopard Cat sitting on a grassy slope across the river! We finally got a prolonged view and good photos of this feline who had been eluding us on this trip.
After breakfast, we returned to “Red Leaf Valley” to resume our search for the Golden Snub-nosed Monkeys. We failed in our attempt so in the afternoon we decided to follow up on a lead and go to the Defense Pass Trail where there were reports of sightings. We didn't see any monkeys but found the famous “Watch out for The Rolling Stones” sign.
|"Watch out for The Rolling Stones"|
On the way back down, we ran into our driver who was very excited about something. He kept pointing across the valley. Finally, we spotted an Asiatic Black Bear feeding high in a tree. Amazing, two Asiatic Black Bears on the same trip! The rest of our group was already onto the bear. It wasn’t as close as our first encounter but it was still fun to observe the bear feeding. As we were watching a second bear, then a third bear appeared. Incredibly, this was a sow with two cubs! What a rare privilege to see not one but four Moon Bears in the reserve. We hope Tangjiahe remains a safe haven for these beleaguered bears.
We returned to the hotel thrilled with our astounding luck. In the dining room that night Phil told Brad Josephs who was leading a Natural Habitat Adventures group about our encounter with the bears. We met Brad in Churchill, Manitoba in 2012 while we were searching for Polar Bears. What a small world! Brad would take his group to hopefully see the bears in the morning.
We went on our final night drive after dinner seeing mainly the same mammals: Takin, Reeve’s Muntjac, Chinese Goral, Masked Palm Civet, Northern Hog Badger, another Malayan Porcupine, and Marc was finally able to get a photo of a Confucian Niviventer.
On the morning of October 27, we checked out of the hotel for the long drive back to Chengdu. A group of Tibetan Macaques was raiding the trash cans and one cheeky individual stole a bag of oranges from a Chinese woman.
|Tibetan Macaque Raiding a Trash Can|
On the way out we stopped at Defense Pass where the Natural Habitat Adventures group was just leaving. They had seen an incredible 5 Asiatic Black Bears, 3 adults, and 2 cubs! They had moved off so we missed the show. We weren’t at all disappointed having seen four bears ourselves. We didn’t arrive in Chengdu until 8:00 pm. Our amazing 6-week trip to Mongolia and China was coming to an end. What a successful journey it has been having logged nearly 60 species of mammals (see list below) in China alone. Many of these animals are endangered and were lifers for us. It is our sincere hope that the unique wildlife of China can continue to survive in areas that are seeing more and more human encroachment. As the standard of living for so many Chinese continues to improve so too should their commitment to protecting their incredible natural heritage increase.
Our sincere thanks to Phil Benstead and Roland Ziedler for showing us the many wonders of Labahe and Tangjiahe Nature Reserves!
We hope all is well with everyone.
Peggy and Marc
China Mammal List: September 26 - October 27, 2018
|1||Tibetan Macaque||Labahe & Tangjiahe|
|2||Red and White Giant Flying Squirrel||Labahe|
|3||Complex-toothed Flying Squirrel||Labahe|
|4||Swinhoe’s Striped Squirrel||Labahe|
|5||Ruoergai & Tangjiahe|
|6||Chinese Giant Flying Squirrel||Petaurista xanthotis||Ruoergai|
|7||Himalayan Marmot||Ruoergai & Qinghai|
|9||[Chinese Zokor]||Ruoergai (dead)|
|10||Confucian Niviventer||Labahe & Tangjiahe|
|12||Tibetan Dwarf Hamster||Wenquan Pass, Qinghai|
|13||Midday Jird||Chaka, Qinghai|
|14||Moupin Pika||Baixha, Qinghai|
|15||Black-lipped Pika||Ruoergai & Qinghai|
|16||Glover’s Pika||South of Yushu, Qinghai|
|17||Tsingling Pika||Huzhu, Qinghai|
|18||Gansu Pika||Huashixia, Qinghai|
|19||Woolly Hare||Ruoergai & Qinghai|
|20||Japanese or Chinese Pipistrelle||pipistrelle sp.||Tangjiahe|
|21||Pallas’s Cat||4 in Ruoergai & 1 in Qinghai|
|22||Chinese Mountain Cat||2 in Ruoergai|
|23||Leopard Cat||1 in Labahe & 1 in Tangjiahe|
|24||[Snow Leopard]||Tracks on the Er La, Qinghai|
|25||Tibetan Wolf||6 in Ruoergai & 10 in Qinghai|
|26||Tibetan Fox||Ruoergai & Qinghai|
|27||Red Fox||Rueorgai & Qinghai|
|28||Asiatic Black Bear||1 & sow w/2 cubs in Tangjiahe|
|29||Red Panda||At least 3 individuals in Labahe|
|30||[Giant Panda]||Dujiangyan Panda Center|
|31||Asian Badger||2 seen in Ruoergai|
|32||Northern Hog Badger||Tangjiahe|
|33||Mountain Weasel||2 in Qinghai|
|34||Siberian Weasel||1 unconfirmed in Labahe|
|35||Steppe Polecat||1 in Ruoergai|
|39||Forest Musk Deer||4 in Labahe|
|40||Alpine Musk Deer||1 in Huzhu, Qinghai|
|41||Siberian Roe Deer||Ruoergai & Huzhu, Qinghai|
|42||Sika Deer||1 in Ruoergai|
|43||Tufted Deer||1 in Tangjiahe|
|44||[Altai Wapati]||Introduced to Labahe|
|45||Kansu Wapiti||Cervus canadensis kansuensis||Dulan Mts. in Qinghai|
|46||MacNeill’s Wapiti||“Greentours Valley”, Qinghai|
|49||Goitered Gazelle||Qaidam Basin, Qinghai|
|50||Tibetan Gazelle||Chang Tang, Qinghai|
|51||Przewalski's gazelle||41 near Koko Nor, Qinghai|
|52||Tibetan Antelope (Chiru)||Chang Tang, Qinghai|
|53||Wild Yak||Chang Tang, Qinghai|
|55||Chinese Serow||Baixha & Tangjiahe|
|56||Chinese Goral||Labahe & Tangjiahe|
|58||Blue Sheep||Qinghai & Ruoergai|
Our route map: