Note: The animals included here are all animals that have a greater likelihood of being sighted by nature watch participants in the Angsai Valley, excluding: Tibetan fox, manul, leopard cat, mountain weasel, stone marten, yellow-throated marten, etc.

Snow Leopard

Scientific Name: Panthera uncia

Classification: CARNIVORA Felidae

Protection Class: National Class I

Size: male body length 104-130 cm, weight 25-55 kg; female body length 86-117 cm, weight 21-53 kg; tail length 78-105 cm

The snow leopard is a famous big cat, known as the “King of the Snow Mountains.” The snow leopard’s physical characteristics are highly compatible with its living habits. In terms of body color, the snow leopard’s overall coat is light gray, sometimes slightly tinged with light brown, with black spots and rings of various shapes scattered throughout. This is ideal for concealment in steep bare rock areas near the snow line and is difficult to be detected by prey. The tail and limbs of the snow leopard are also very distinctive: the limbs are short compared to other felines, but the tail is as long as the body. This flexibility in body and long tail gives the snow leopard great climbing ability, making it extremely capable of climbing and jumping between rocks.

In the valley of cats, the sighting rate of snow leopard can be as high as 50%. Most nature watch participants have also come in the hope of finding snow leopards. So how can one find a snow leopard in the mountains? Snow leopards are very secretive and not active for the most time. Searching the mountains with naked eye is like looking for a needle in the haystack. 

There are three main ways to find a snow leopard:

1. With the help of blue sheep. Snow leopards prefer to have blue sheep for food. If there is a large flock of blue sheep in the bare rock area, the snow leopards are very likely to be waiting next to the flock. If you are lucky and find that the sheep are suddenly disturbed and start to run away quickly, it is likely that snow leopards have start hunting.

2. With the help of livestock. In the Valley of Cats, there are times when snow leopards attack livestock. If your herdsman guide gets the news of a snow leopard attacking livestock in the valley, you may want to stay a hundred meters away from the dead livestock. It is very likely to see the snow leopard at this time!

3. With the help of calls of the snow leopard. Snow leopards come into estrous cycle in March every year. During this time, the penetrating and highly recognizable calls can be occasionally heard in the valley. Searching for snow leopards by their calls also makes March the month of the year with highest sighting rate.

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Common Leopard

Scientific Name: Panthera pardus

Classification: CARNIVORA Felidae

Protection Class: National Class I

Size: body length 90-196cm, tail length 66-102cm, with round head, short neck, black ear back with a distinct white spot on it, and yellow ear tips

The common leopard is a large cat with wide distribution and high adaptability. When we talk about leopards and panthers, we are referring to the common leopard. The common leopard has a muscular body, powerful claws and its strong jaw that enable it to easily kill and dismember its prey. The leopard is also a very agile mountain climber, with heavily muscled shoulders and forelimbs that help it climb slopes and drag prey to trees. Different from the snow leopard, the common leopard has a dark golden base color and a large, stout body. These features are not designed for bare rock areas at the snow line like those of the snow leopard, but are better suited for hiding through forests at lower elevation. While snow leopards feed on blue sheep, common leopards prefer the common white-lipped deer and the occasional “big bunny” musk deer. When food is abundant, the common leopard’s range of activity is relatively constant; when food is deficient, the leopard can wander for tens of kilometers to hunt.

Angsai is one of the few areas where common leopards and snow leopards coexist: both big cats are found in coniferous forests, alpine scrub, or alpine meadow habitats at an altitude of around 4,000 meters. This is a strong testament to the integrity and well-being of the ecosystem in Angsai. Over the years, Shan Shui Conservation Center have made huge efforts to protect these two types of animals. Top predators are not only a sign of ecological prosperity but also the key to protecting the food chain of the whole region. When the integrity of an area’s ecosystem is compromised, it is often the carnivores that first disappear, either by moving away or disappearing.

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Scientific Name: Lynx lynx 

Classification: CARNIVORA  Felidae

Protection Class: National Class II

Size: male body length 76-148cm, weight 12-38kg; female body length 85-130cm, weight 13-21kg

Color: The basic fur color is sandy yellow to grayish brown, and is distributed with black or dark brown spots (some spots are very faint). The lynx in this region generally have lighter fur color and inconspicuous spots. The throat and abdomen fur color is either white or light gray.

Lynx are sturdy, medium-sized feline that are much larger than domestic cats, but smaller than big cats like leopards. The most well-known feature of lynx is the black tuft of hair at the tip of the ear. On the upright triangular ears, the tufts can be 4-5 cm long. Lynx ears and hair clusters can always face the direction of the sound source and play the role of collecting sound waves. In addition, the lynx has large long legs and short tail. The lynx tail is so short that it can be ignored, but they have long limbs and wide feet, as if they were wearing boots. Lynx are found in a variety of habitats in the cold climates of Eurasia, and their wide feet can easily walk through thick snow.

Hare is a favorite of the lynx, and their most common feeding strategy is to “wait for the hare”: when capturing prey, they often ambush in grass, bushes, rocks and other cover, and quietly wait for a very long time. Only when the prey is close would they come out unexpectedly and capture the animal. In addition to woolly hare, lynx also prey on rodents, pika, marmot and small ungulates (musk deer, etc.)

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Scientific Name: Canis lupus

Classification: CARNIVORA  Canidae

Protection Class: National Class II

Size: body length 87-130cm, tail length 35-50cm, male weight 20-80kg, female weight 18-55kg

As the largest of the Canidae family, the wolf has a longer muzzle than others, with ears and eyes facing forward, and longer limbs in proportion to its body. The typical coat color of wolves is brownish gray, but there are many variations of coat colors, including tan, brownish gray and gray-black, usually with a darker dorsal coat and a lighter belly. The winter coat is denser and thicker than the summer coat, and the coat color is usually darker.

The Sanjiangyuan area is one of the few remaining habitats for wolves in China. Compared with the solitary nature of felines, wolves have a strong social nature and prefer to hunt and share food together. Of course, the herders are concerned about this because when wolves are found to have preyed on yaks, they often have already eaten a large portion of the herd - making it more difficult for commercial insurance to pay for the loss.

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Tibetan Brown Bear

Scientific Name: Ursus arctos

Classification: CARNIVORA Ursidae

Protection Class: National Class II

Size: male body length 160-280cm, weight 135-725kg; female body length 140-228cm, weight 55-277kg; tail length 6.5-21cm

The brown bear is large and strong. It is the largest terrestrial carnivore distributed in China, but there is considerable variation in size among different geographic subspecies. The Tibetan brown bears in the Sanjiangyuan area are relatively small in size. Brown bears distributed on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and surrounding areas, regardless of the main body color, usually have a mottled appearance, with dark extremities and lighter body and head color; many individuals have a light white or dirty yellow band around the neck that extends to shoulders and chest, but the size is highly variable and, in some individuals, it is even completely absent. The Tibetan brown bear is one of the subspecies of the brown bear, also known as the Tibetan bear or Tibetan blue bear. In Angsai, local people call them DreMong.

The Tibetan brown bear is perhaps the most feared creature on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. According to local herders, if one sees a bear, he or she is almost at the edge of death.

Of all the animals on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, bears have the most direct and violent conflicts with people. Most herders’ homes have been attacked by bears to various degrees,specially in the winter. Herders often leave some flour and grain in their winter homes (unlike summer pasture tents, winter homes are built houses.) Smart brown bears soon learnt to find food from people’s homes - after all, it is much easier than to catch a prey. Such behavior causes much trouble to people. Even the repairing of houses and furniture can reach tens of thousands a year and can be a huge cost for an average nomadic family.


Euraisan Otter

Scientific Name: Lutra lutra

Classification: CARNIVORA  Mustelidae

Protection Class: National ClassII

Size: male body length 160-280cm, weight 135-725kg; female body length 140-228cm, weight 55-277kg; tail length 6.5-21cm

The Eurasian otter is widespread in Eurasia, with the Sanjiangyuan area being one of its highest and most important habitats. The otter inhabits riverine habitats in Sanjiangyuan, preferring flowing bodies of water, and can be found above 4,000 meters. The otter is an excellent swimmer and diver, moving and feeding through the water in a wave-like undulating posture, propelled by its hind limbs and tail swing. It is the top predator and flagship species of the aquatic ecology, with its main diet being fish, but it also occasionally preys on aquatic crustaceans, frogs, birds, rodents, rabbits and offal of animals slaughtered by humans. Otters are mainly solitary or paired, and are very territorial. They are active at night, in the morning and evening, but rarely during the day, which is one of the reasons why very little is known by domestic researchers. Compared to most of the animals recorded on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, otter is one of the most mysterious one.

Although it is difficult to encounter otters in the Batang River, Yushu and the Zhaqu River, Angsai, finding their traces are relatively easy: otter droppings can be seen on rocks along the river. The droppings are very stinky and contain a lot of fish bones.

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Red Fox

Scientific Name: Vulpes vulpes

Classification: CARNIVORA Canidae

Protection Class: National Class II

Size: male body length 59-90cm, weight 4-14kg; female body length 50-65cm, weight 3.5-7.5kg; tail length 28-49cm

Compared to the Tibetan fox, the red fox can be considered a beauty. They are more common in Angsai and may appear on the roadside at night.

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