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Asian Golden Cats: Giant Pandas' Friends
Date: 2019-08-26

National treasures, those that deserve special protection from the country, are of great value and significance to the country. China, with a vast territory, rich resources and a long history, has numerous national treasures left, among which the most known is undoubtedly the giant panda, except the brilliant cultural relics.

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Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are believed to be well known to the world, but many mysterious and precious animals in giant pandas’ habitat is still unbeknown. Now, the author will introduce you the Asian golden cat (Catopuma temminckii): giant pandas’ friends.

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Asian Golden Cat photo source: Karen stout / Wikipedia

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The Asian golden cat, known as Biao in ancient times, is a medium-sized feline mammal living in tropical and subtropical native evergreen and deciduous forests with a body length of about 100cm and a tail length of about 50cm. It weighs about 12-16kg, with flexible limbs and muscular body, mainly preying on large rodents, small ungulates and other animals. It is our country's second-class protected animals.

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The most recognizable features of golden cats are three white markings respectively beside the eyes, on the cheeks and beneath the nose. The color of golden cat is mostly pure without markings except black tail end and foot.

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Golden cats’ population have great variations in colors and markings, even in the same area. Unlike other species,it has nothing to do with the geographical isolation and subspecies differentiation. This phenomenon is extremely rare among the other animals.

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The Most Featured White Markings on Head photo source: arkive.org.cn

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Golden Cat in Predation photo source: arkive.org.cn

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Golden Cat Color Scale
Photo source: Riddhi P. Patel, Daniel W. Forster, Andrew C. Kitchener et al. (2016)

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According traditional classification, Asian Golden Cats had been divided into 3 subspecies: nominate subspecies(C. t. temminckii),south China subspecies(C. t. dominicanorum), and Tibet subspecies(C. t. tristis). However, multidisciplinary studies, such as molecular biology, has rediscovered the relationship between the golden cat populations. The latter two subspecies are more likely to be treated as one species (patel et al., 2016). Considering the situation of very limited captive population, that is absolutely a good news for management and breeding in captivity.

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South China subspecies(C. t. dominicanorum) and Tibet subspecies(C. t. tristis)are mostly distributed in China, and highly overlap with the wild habitat of giant pandas. So, golden cats are veritable Chinese native star species that live next to giant pandas.

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Golden Cats Distribution pic source: IUCN Red List (2016)

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Only 6 golden cats live in Chinese zoos at present. The difficulty and ineffectiveness of artificial breeding and field study leads to the little understanding of them. There has been still no precise data to evaluate the trend in population change till now. It is speculated that the population is likely to continue declining according to records of field observation. It is an urgency to protect the golden cat.

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Giant Panda Conservation Means Biodiversity Conservation.

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As neighbors of giant pandas, most populations and habitats can be effectively protected by the umbrella effect of giant pandas, but this is far from enough. China's native species are also unique national treasures that deserve more attention and conservation from all of us.

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