China updates list of species with special protection

Last week, the Chinese government announced the publication of a revised list of species with special protection under its Wildlife Protection Law.  This is the first revision since the list was originally published in 1988, more than 30 years ago.  An update was badly needed as the original list contained mostly large and obvious species, in the case of birds this meant families such as cranes, storks and pheasants, with passerines and shorebirds largely ignored.  And of course the status of many species has changed significantly in the last three decades, meaning that many more species are in need of special protection.

In summary, there are now 980 species of wildlife, including mammals and birds,  that have special protection – either Class I or Class II – in China, of which 394 species are birds.  Of the 394 bird species, 92 now enjoy Class I protection.  

The table below lists ALL 92 species of bird now under Class I protection.  It includes the English name, Chinese name, scientific name and change compared with the 1988 list.  

English NameChinese NameScientific NameChangs in Status
Sichuan Partridge  四川山鹧鸪Arborophila rufipectusNo change
Hainan Partridge  海南山鹧鸪Arborophila ardensNo change
Chinese Grouse  斑尾榛鸡Tetrastes sewerzowiNo change
Black-billed Capercaillie  黑嘴松鸡Tetrao urogalloidesNo change
Black Grouse  黑琴鸡Lyrurus tetrixUpgraded from Class II
Chestnut-throated Partridge  红喉雉鹑Tetraophasis obscurusUpgraded from Class II
Buff-throated Partridge  黄喉雉鹑Tetraophasis szechenyiiUpgraded from Class II
Western Tragopan  黑头角雉Tragopan melanocephalusNo change
Satyr Tragopan  红胸角雉Tragopan satyraNo change
Blyth's Tragopan  灰腹角雉Tragopan blythiiNo change
Cabot's Tragopan  黄腹角雉Tragopan cabotiNo change
Himalayan Monal  棕尾虹雉Lophophorus impejanusNo change
Sclater's Monal  白尾梢虹雉Lophophorus sclateriNo change
Chinese Monal  绿尾虹雉Lophophorus lhuysiiNo change
Swinhoe's Pheasant  蓝腹鹇Lophura swinhoiiNo change
Brown Eared-pheasant  褐马鸡Crossoptilon mantchuricumNo change
Elliot's Pheasant  白颈长尾雉Syrmaticus elliotiNo change
Hume's Pheasant  黑颈长尾雉Syrmaticus humiaeNo change
Mikado Pheasant  黑长尾雉Syrmaticus mikadoNo change
Reeve's Pheasant  白冠长尾雉Syrmaticus reevesiiUpgraded from Class II
Grey Peacock-pheasant  灰孔雀雉Polyplectron bicalcaratumNo change
Hainan Peacock-pheasant  海南孔雀雉Polyplectron katsumataeRecent split
Green Peafowl  绿孔雀Pavo muticusNo change
Baer's Pochard  青头潜鸭Aythya baeriNew
Scaly-sided Merganser  中华秋沙鸭Mergus squamatusNo change
White-headed Duck  白头硬尾鸭Oxyura leucocephalaNew
Little Cuckoo-dove  小鹃鸠Macropygia ruficepsUpgraded from Class II
Great Bustard  大鸨Otis tardaNo change
Macqueen's Bustard  波斑鸨Chlamydotis macqueeniiNo change
Little Bustard  小鸨Tetrax tetraxNo change
Siberian Crane  白鹤Grus leucogeranusNo change
White-naped Crane  白枕鹤Grus vipioUpgraded from Class II
Sarus Crane  赤颈鹤Grus antigoneNo change
Red-crowned Crane  丹顶鹤Grus japonensisNo change
Hooded Crane  白头鹤Grus monachaNo change
Black-necked Crane  黑颈鹤Grus nigricollisNo change
Nordmann's Greenshank  小青脚鹬Tringa guttiferUpgraded from Class II
Spoon-billed Sandpiper  勺嘴鹬Calidris pygmeusNew
Saunders's Gull  黑嘴鸥Saundersilarus saundersiNew
Relict Gull  遗鸥Ichthyaetus relictusNo change
Chinese Crested Tern  中华凤头燕鸥Thalasseus bernsteiniUpgraded from Class II
River Tern  河燕鸥Sterna aurantiaUpgraded from Class II
Black-footed Albatross  黑脚信天翁Phoebastria nigripesNew
Short-tailed Albatross  短尾信天翁Phoebastria albatrusNo change
Painted Stork  彩鹳Mycteria leucocephalaUpgraded from Class II
Black Stork  黑鹳Ciconia nigraNo change
White Stork  白鹳Ciconia ciconiaNo change
Oriental Stork  东方白鹳Ciconia boycianaNo change (previously treated as White Stork)
Christmas Frigatebird  白腹军舰鸟Fregata andrewsiNo change
Black-headed Ibis  黑头白鹮Threskiornis melanocephalusUpgraded from Class II
White-shouldered Ibis  白肩黑鹮Pseudibis davisoniUpgraded from Class II
Crested Ibis  朱鹮Nipponia nipponNo change
Glossy Ibis  彩鹮Plegadis falcinellusUpgraded from Class II
Black-faced Spoonbill  黑脸琵鹭Platalea minorUpgraded from Class II
White-eared Night-heron  海南鳽Gorsachius magnificusUpgraded from class II
White-bellied Heron  白腹鹭Ardea insignisNew
Chinese Egret  黄嘴白鹭Egretta eulophotesUpgraded from class II
Great White Pelican  白鹈鹕Pelecanus onocrotalusUpgraded from class II
Spot-bellied Pelican  斑嘴鹈鹕Pelecanus philippensisUpgraded from class II
Dalmatian Pelican  卷羽鹈鹕Pelecanus crispusUpgraded from class II
Bearded Vulture  胡兀鹫Gypaetus barbatusNo change
White-rumped Vulture  白背兀鹫Gyps bengalensisNo change
Red-headed Vulture  黑兀鹫Sarcogyps calvusUpgraded from Class II
Cinereous Vulture  秃鹫Aegypius monachusUpgraded from Class II
Greater Spotted Eagle  乌雕Clanga clangaUpgraded from Class II
Steppe Eagle  草原雕Aquila nipalensisUpgraded from Class II
Eastern Imperial Eagle  白肩雕Aquila heliacaNo change
Golden Eagle  金雕Aquila chrysaetosNo change
White-bellied Sea-eagle  白腹海雕Haliaeetus leucogasterUpgraded from Class II
Pallas's Fish-eagle  玉带海雕Haliaeetus leucoryphusNo change
White-tailed Eagle  白尾海雕Haliaeetus albicillaNo change
Steller'a Sea-eagle  虎头海雕Haliaeetus pelagicusNo change
Blakiston's Fish-owl  毛腿雕鸮Bubo blakistoniUpgraded from Class II
Père David's Owl  四川林鸮Strix davidiTaxonomic change
Austen's Brown Hornbill  白喉犀鸟Anorrhinus austeniUpgraded from Class II
Oriental Pied Hornbill  冠斑犀鸟Anthracoceros albirostrisUpgraded from Class II
Great Hornbill  双角犀鸟Buceros bicornisUpgraded from Class II
Rufous-necked Hornbill  棕颈犀鸟Aceros nipalensisUpgraded from Class II
Wreathed Hornbill  花冠皱盔犀鸟Rhyticeros undulatusUpgraded from Class II
Saker Falcon  猎隼Falco cherrugUpgraded from class II
Gyrfalcon  矛隼Falco rusticolusUpgraded from class II
Sichuan Jay  黑头噪鸦Perisoreus internigransNew
Rusty-throated Parrotbill  灰冠鸦雀Sinosuthora przewalskiiNew
Golden-fronted Fulvetta  金额雀鹛Schoeniparus variegaticepsNew
Snowy-cheeked Laughingthrush  黑额山噪鹛Garrulax sukatschewiNew
White-speckled Laughingthrush  白点噪鹛Garrulax bietiNew
Blue-crowned Laughingthrush  蓝冠噪鹛Garrulax courtoisiNew
Bugun Liocichla  黑冠薮鹛Liocichla bugunorumNew
Emei Shan Liocichla  灰胸薮鹛Liocichla omeiensisNew
Rufous-headed Robin  棕头歌鸲Larvivora ruficepsNew
Jankowski's Bunting  栗斑腹鹀Emberiza jankowskiiNew
Yellow-breasted Bunting  黄胸鹀Emberiza aureolaNew


The full list, including both Class I and Class II, can be downloaded here (tab one includes all species, tab two contains birds only with all Class I species highlighted yellow)

For comparison, the original list from 1988 can be seen here.

So what does first or second class protection mean? 

It is worth stating that ALL wild birds are protected in China and that harming or taking any bird from the wild is illegal without a special license, only granted for scientific research purposes.  Class I and Class II protection means that there are more severe punishments for anyone harming these species or their habitats.  The punishments that can be administered are outlined in Chapter IV of the Wildlife Protection Law.  The latest text in English, including a draft amended law from 2020, can be found here  (a broader analysis of the law in terms of trade and use of wild animals, can be found on the EIA’s website).  In summary, although the law is typically vague, fines of up to CNY 100,000 (GBP 11,000) can be levied, depending on the type and severity of the offence, with additional negative impacts to individuals’ social credit score and the potential for custodial sentences.  

Although this post focuses on birds but there are major steps forward on other wildlife, too, with perhaps the most eye-catching being that the Wolf (Canis lupus) and Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) are now given special protection (Class II) for the first time and Dhole (Cuon alpinus) upgraded to Class I from Class II.  Chinese Mountain Cat (Felis bieti), Jungle Cat (Felis chaus) and Asian Golden Cat (Pardofelis temminckii) are also upgraded to Class I, joining Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia), Common Leopard (Panthera pardus) and Tiger (Panthera tigris).

Under the new Wildlife Protection Law, the list of species with special protection should be revised every five years.  If implemented, this will enable a more dynamic process of protection for China’s most endangered species.

The publication of the new list is a major step forward in the recognition, and protection, of China’s wildlife, much of which is unique, and coincides with the formation of a system of national parks, the ban on further land reclamation along its coast, with inscription of key coastal wetlands as World Heritage Sites, and the hosting of the UN Conventions on Biological Diversity and Wetlands in 2021 in Kunming and Wuhan respectively.  The next step is to implement a robust education and awareness programme for both law enforcement officials and the general public to ensure this new list is fully respected and enforced and to ensure credible monitoring mechanisms are in place in order to provide science-based evidence to underpin changes to the list five years from now.

Big credit must go to the Chinese academics and conservationists who have been working hard over a long period to update and strengthen the list.  


Thank you to ShanShui Conservation Center for comments on the original version of this article which clarified the status of some species on the original list.


13 thoughts on “China updates list of species with special protection”

  1. what a very big step….will be a very useful tool for better enforcement and better punishment in poaching cases.
    There are several species that I would have loved to see in the list in cat II such a Chinese Grassbird, Collared Crow, Green-eared Barbet, Streaked-winged batwing, some the grassland specialist such as Blue-breasted Quail and Small Buttonquail, certainly in big trouble in China….
    But there was such a big gap between the previous list and this one, that I can imagine the work it has required to arrive here already…
    Thanks for sharing this…

    1. Thanks Jonathan. I agree.. I am sure that the attention will now focus on gathering robust data in order to push for the addition of some of the species you mention, and more, at the next revision five years from now. Having a regular update to the list mandated in the revised law means that long-term monitoring to identify population trends is now a vital and an urgent next step for conservationists.

  2. This is remarkable and most welcome. Other countries will take note and hopefully replicate such extensive protections. Thanks, Terry.

    1. Thank you, Jane. It’s been a long time coming but it’s a major step forward and I know how hard many Chinese conservationists and academics have pushed to make this revised list a reality. Work starts now to ensure the next revision, five years from now, can go through more speedily, based on robust scientific evidence. Long-term monitoring is often not seen as ‘sexy’ but it is so important.

  3. As you mention Terry, seeing wolf on this list is a very welcome and enlightened move, given widespread and systematic persecution of this species in parts of the country. Wolf conservation provokes much controversy and discussion throughout the world. In China, as elsewhere, it will need special awareness and monitoring efforts.

  4. Just before I left RSPB in 2016 I was invited to give a presentation to a delegation of Chinese academics and government officials about wild bird legislation in the UK from the perspective of an NGO as they were researching how their law should be updated. Great to hear it’s now finally come to fruition.

    1. That’s great, Duncan. The wheels of government rotate slowly but contributions such as yours will certainly have helped influence the end result. The key now will be to ensure enforcement of the law and also to implement robust long-term monitoring of all species to identify early when species are in trouble and to ensure the list of species with special protection is dynamic to reflect rapidly changing circumstances.

      1. Funny thing was, after my talk I was all geared up for some searching questions. First question was “Why don’t you wear a uniform like the RSPCA”? 😆

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.