Earlier this week I was invited to join Peking University’s Leopard Cat research team on a field trip to their study site. Led by Professor Luo Shu-Jin, the team has been studying the capital’s wild cats for three years, and has recently stepped up its research by fitting tracking collars. The collars, so far fitted to three females, are showing for the first time the movements of these secretive felines. Early results have revealed that the three females are primarily nocturnal, have rather distinct territories and swim often. The closest relative to the Leopard Cat is the Fishing Cat of South Asia, so perhaps we should not be surprised they are not averse to taking a dip.
This week’s trip to the field site was to check and maintain infrared cameras and to set up a trap with the hope of catching and collaring a male. In large cats such as the Snow Leopard, it is the male that has a relatively large territory within which several females may hold smaller territories. It will be fascinating to see whether this is the case for Beijing’s Leopard Cats.
The trap includes a trigger that, via the phone network, will inform the team as soon as the trap is sprung. The team is on call 24 hours per day so that they can react quickly and minimise the time that any captured animal is in captivity.
It was an honour for me to join the team for the day and to learn so much about their work. Beijing is one of the few major capital cities that supports a population of wild cats, so understanding better their ecology, including their habitat requirements, will help to inform land management policies in Beijing with a view to securing the future of this special animal in the Chinese capital.
To keep up to date with the research team’s progress, please check this dedicated page.
Title image: the Peking University Leopard Cat Research Team.