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 Qinling Mountains

The Qinling Mountain range is famous in China for its beautiful scenery, astonishing peaks and superlative natural beauty. The range itself is enormous, though what most people don't realize is that only 50km SE of Xi'an is a perfect location for swimming in natural pools, hiking through valleys and crests, and sampling the hospitality of the local village people. For many visitors, this is their highlight of their trip to China- simply breathtaking! If you want to travel a little further a field, around 200kms south lies one of the biggest areas of Giant Pandas in their natural habitat in China. (Image points and enlarge)

       
The Qinlong Mountain range is also a great place for fruit picking in the autumn. Who would have thought that all this lies on the doorstep of this great and ancient city?
Qinling Mountains: From eastern Gansu Province to west Henan Province, the Qinling Mountains have an average elevation of 2000-3000 meters with the highest peak, Taibai Mountain, stretching 3767 meters into the sky. It is an important boundary line between the north and south China.

The Daba and Qinling Mountain Systems are a biologically rich area of China that has been the source of several fascinating botanical discoveries. These mountains run east-west and separate the Sichuan Basin from the plains and loess plateaus of northern China. This forms an important watershed divide between China抯 two great rivers, the Changjiang (Yangtze) and the Huang He (Yellow) River. This montane divide also serves as a biogeographic barrier between subtropical forests (mostly evergreen) and their associated species to the south and temperate forests (mostly deciduous) to the north. A number of endemic plant taxa occur here, as do some of China抯 rarest and most distinctive mammals, including the giant panda and Sichuan snub-nosed monkey.

The Qinling Mountains (maximum elevation 3,700 m) comprise the northernmost strip of transverse ranges that separate the Sichuan Basin from the steppes and plains of north-central China. Because they face north, the Qinling Mountains are subject to strong, cold winter winds so that forests here are characterized by plants and animals that have a temperate affinity. Winter temperatures here are as much as 13oC cooler at a given elevation than in the Daba Mountains on the south-facing side of the barrier. Annual precipitation is about 850 to 950 mm, though it declines to 700 mm in some areas.

Deciduous forests in the foothills give way to conifer forests at lower elevations here, in contrast to the more sheltered Daba Mountains that lie to the south. Pleistocene refuge species like the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), found in the Daba Mountains, are generally absent here.

Forest is better preserved in the Qinling Mountains, compared to the adjacent lowlands to the north. Low-elevation foothills are dominated by northern temperate deciduous trees like oak (Quercus acutissima, Q. variabilis), elm (Ulmus spp.), walnut (Juglans regia), maple (Acer spp.), ash (Fraxinus spp.) and Celtis spp. Evergreen species of these forests include both broadleaf trees (Castanopsis sclerophylla, Cyclobalanopsis glauca) and conifers like the pine Pinus massoniana. Although many of these trees are congeneric with species that are important in European forests, the taxonomic diversity within most of these genera is significantly higher in Central China than Europe.

       

At the middle elevations, conifers like Pinus armandii co-occur with birch (Betula spp.) and other members of the oak family (Quercus spp., Carpinus spp.). Higher still, at 2,600 to 3,000 m, these stands give way to a subalpine association of fir (Abies fargesii, A. shensiensis), larch (Larix chinensis) and birch (Betula spp.), with rhododendron (Rhododendron fastigiatum) abundant in the understory.

 Biodiversity Features

Important animal species here include takin (Budorcas taxicolor) and Sichuan snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana). This area also includes the eastern limit for the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), also present in the Qionglai-Min Shan ecoregion to the west. The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) and clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) are two other rare mammals known from this ecoregion. Foping Nature Reserve (292 km2) has a resident population of giant pandas estimated at 39 individuals in 1993. Here, the climate is transitional from subtropical to temperate, allowing rich forest cover and a high diversity of bamboo species to support a relatively high density of pandas.

The bird fauna has a temperate Eurasian character, with titmice Parus spp., tree creepers Certhia spp., and nuthatches Sitta spp. active in the forest. Indomalayan taxa like the babblers (Timiliidae spp.), abundant to the south, are much reduced here.

Plant endemism is not as high here as in the Daba Shan to the south. One tree species restricted to this area is the fir, Abies chinensis.

       

                              Qinling bird watching

Another important reserve here is the sacred mountain Taibaishan (3,767 m) where forests have been protected over the centuries for religious reasons.

The beginning to enter the forest 
A watercourse in Qinling Mountains

Animals of the Qinling Mountains
Because the climate varies so much between the different altitudes of the forests of Qinling Mountains, there has a huge variety of plants and animals. Many Qinling plants are rare and endangered, including the Ginkgo, one of the oldest tree species in the world. The Chinese Mountain Larch, the Miaotai Maple and the Chinese Fir are also highly endangered and therefore listed by the Chinese Government as protected species.
And then there are the animals which include brilliantly colored-pheasants, Giant Salamanders, Golden Monkeys and of course, the world-famous Giant Pandas. 
 
WWF Symbol - The Qinling Panda
Based on a national survey approximately 1000 wild pandas were found in the wild, The Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi Province is the northernmost distribution area for the giant panda and is also one of the areas with the densest panda population. The Qinling panda population is an independent panda population with about 200-300 pandas. It has been found mainly in the Foping, Yang County, Ningshan, Taibai and Chenggu areas of Qinling.
To save Giant Panda, "China Giant Panda and its Habitats Protection Project"
was launched in 1992 for establishment of nature reserves,
recovery of its habitats and propagation in captivity.
The Shaanxi provincial government has officially sanctioned five new panda reserves and five panda 'corridors' - zones that link protected areas and allow fragmented populations of pandas to cross from one protected area to another. Because human land use has restricted many populations of pandas to less than 50 individuals, this is crucially important if the threat of inbreeding is to be reduced. The five new giant panda reserves are Motian Qinling Reserve (8,520 h), Ningqiang Qingmu Chuan Reserve (10,200 h), Guanyinshan Reserve (13,534 h), Sangyuan Reserve (13,805.7 h) and Ningshan Reserve (26,732 h).
 
The Wild Giant Panda  The Giant Panda

       

Favourate Color: Imperial Green like dripping mountains
Favourate Song: 《panda mimi》
Fancy: Walking slowly in the forest, wallowing in the bamboo circles, play with brothers and sisters,lieing on the hillside in sunshine daytime, lieing in litter and counting stars……
Hating Best: Human fell the woods around my home, also put some traps. Several brothers and sisters were harmed due to this……
Delighting Best: It is said the nation has built five nature reserves……

Facts about the Giant Panda
Only found in china, the giant panda is a solitary animal that feeds primarily
on bamboo and, occasionally, the carcasses of small mammals.
Where do they live?
Giant pandas live in temperate-zone, broadleaf and coniferous forests in
the mountain ranges. Today, giant panda are only found in six separate mountain ranges: Qinling in shaanxi province; Minshan stretching between Gansu and Sichuan provinces; and Qionglai,
Da xiangling, Xiao xiangling and Liangshan in Sichuan province. Based on a national survey in the mid-1980s, approximately 1000 wild pandas were found in an estimated distribution area of around 13,000 km2 and approximately 140
pandas live in zoos or breeding centers around the world, but mainly in China.  
Bamboo Forest
 
Giant Panda inhabiting place


Wild Giant Panda going through the river  What do they eat?
Pandas consume 20 to 40 pounds of bamboo each day and, in zoos, also eat sugar cane, rice gruel, carrots, apples, sweet potatoes, and special high-fiber biscuits. Even though bamboo is about half water, pandas also need to drink fresh water from rivers and
streams every day.
How big are they?
These black-and-white bears
stand between 27 and 31 inches tall at
the shoulder and reach five feet tall when standing. Males are larger than females.
.An adult's body length usually measures between 120 and 190cm and its tail length is between 10 and 20cm. An adult panda weights between 85 and 125kg. The habitat of giant panda is characterized by bamboo stands under coniferous, broad-leafed,
and mixed forest at altitudes
between 1200 and 3400 m. 
Wild Giant Panda eating bamboo
 
Wild Giant Panda climbing the tree When do they reproduce?
Giant pandas reach breeding maturity between the ages of four and five. Mating season is from mid-March to early May, but the female is only in heat for three to four days. The gestation period for giant pandas ranges from 97 to 163 days, and females may give birth to two cubs with
usually only one surviving.
What is their expected lifespan?
The exact lifespan of giant pandas in the wild is unknown, but scientists believe that they live longer in zoos than on their own. The National Zoo's Hsing-Hsing lived to be 28 years old, and Chinese scientists have reported zoo pandas as old as 35.


What is their lifestyle?
Giant pandas generally live a solitary lifestyle. However, recent studies have shown that small groups of pandas share a large territory and sometimes meet outside of the breeding season. Giant pandas do not hibernate like other bears from temperate climates. In a typical day for a panda, 14 hours are spent eating, while the other 10 are spent sleeping. Giant pandas usually sleep in two-to four-hour increments. 


Wild Giant Panda going through the river
The giant panda is listed as endangered on the World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Animals. The panda is endangered for the same fundamental reason that nature is imperiled throughout China, and indeed throughout the world: Explosive population growth and unsustainable use of natural resources are causing habitat for wildlife to vanish. Compounding these pressures are habitat degeneration and fragmentation due to human activities, poaching, poor local communities who rely on natural resources for their livelihood, and a lack of equipment and facilities for patrolling. There are now over 30 giant panda reserves in China, protecting about 50% of the panda habitat.

Qinlin Panda Habitat
    Serving as geographical dividing lines between North and South China, Qinlin Mountains are home to large number of rare and endangered wild animals including, giant pandas, golden monkey, Sichuan Takin. Qinling giant panda habitats are located in the south of Shanxi Province, covering more than 1000 km2 and accomadating about 200 pandas. There are three national-level nature reserves and nine provincial-level nature reserves in Qinling Mountains.


Foping National Nature Reserve in Shaanxi

Set up in 1979, covering 292.4km2 accomadating about 60 pandas
Changqing Nature Reserve
 
Set up in 1995, Changqing Nature Reserve is home to about 50 pandas, covering 300km2.

 Zhouzhi National Nature Reserve Lies

Established in 1994, Laoxiancheng Nature Reserve occupies 126km2. There are about 20 pandas

 
Clouds over the Qinling Mountains  
A bourn in the Qinling Mountains

The Golden Takin
 
A Golden Takin Head  
     
A group of Golden Takins

Much less well-known but certainly very impressive looking is the Takin which is a beautiful golden-haired ox with a big, broad nose. Takins can weigh several hundred kilograms, and they are very big and strong and very beautiful. When you see one with the sun shining on its golden hair and it is standing there like a General, you cannot describe how powerful it looks!?
Takins usually live in groups and feed on the woody plants and bamboos of Qinling mountain forests. But sadly, a lot of poachers still hunt them for their meat. They know the takin is endangered and therefore a protected species, but still, people set snares and traps to kill them and sell their meat to make money. Takins usually live in groups and feed on the woody plants and bamboos of Qinling Mountain Forests. 
 

The Golden Snub-nosed Monkey

       

The takins are not the only golden-haired creatures of the Qinling Mountains. There is also a monkey with a tiny nose and many different names, including two Latin ones! The Chinese Golden Monkey is variously called the Golden Snub-nosed Monkey or Sichuan Snub-nosed Monkey but whatever its name, these monkeys are famed for their fur and therefore highly prized.
 
A Golden Monkey They are about 60-70 cms tall.
Their hair is so long. It really hangs over their shoulder so when they jump from
tree to tree, it looks like they have wings! The Golden Monkeys live in large
groups, sometimes 600 strong. Nevertheless, their numbers
are seriously end angered by hunting
and clearing of forests. 


The Crested Ibis

       

Because the climate varies so much between the different altitudes of the forests of Qinling Mountains, there are a huge variety of plants and animals. Many Qinling plants are rare and endangered, including the Ginkgo, one of the oldest tree species in the world. The Chinese Mountain Larch, the Miaotai Maple and the Chinese Fir are also highly endangered and therefore listed by the Chinese Government as protected species. And there are the animals which include the Golden Monkey, Golden Takin, Crested Ibis, Golden Eagle, and Clouded Leopard. It is one of the few remaining natural habitats where China's national symbol, the giant panda, lives. 

Qinling Mountains Become Home to Rare Animals


The Qinling Mountains have become a safe home to various rare animals as a result of the local efforts to set up nature reserves in the area. Chinese government attaches great importance to the construction of an ecological environment in the area, and has set up many special nature reserves for giant pandas, known as the "state treasure," ibises, golden monkeys and antelopes.

In Foping County Nature Reserve, pandas are getting along with villagers. Once a panda is ill, she will go to residents for help. Sources with the Shaanxi Provincial Forestry Bureau said that two pandas suffered ill have recovered and returned to forests after 20 days' care of the villagers. Li Huanfang, an expert of rare animals, said that the nature reserves cover 203,500 hectares in area, or takes up 4.1 percent of Qinling Mountains' total area. However, the nature reserves have more than 3,000 kinds of rare plants, accounting for 80 percent of Qinling Mountains' total, Li added. He said the construction of nature reserves and adoption of a series of protection measures to save many endangered animal species.

Statistics provided by animal protection departments of Shaanxi Province show that the number of ibises have increased to 270 from seven when they were first found in Yangxian County in 1981. Experts estimated that there are some 200 giant pandas, or one-fifth of China's total, 4,500 antelopes and more than 5,000 golden monkeys in the Qinling Mountains. Shaanxi plans to build four to five more nature reserves in the Qinling Mountains in the coming years to provide a sound living environment for wild animals.


 

Other things to see

 
Field Trip

Field Trip is a special trip to the Nature Reserves in the Qinling Mountains, you may have chance to see the Wild Giant Panda in the Habitat, and the other wild mammals, Golden Takin, Golden Monkey, Serow , Red&White Flying Squirrel etc,
for the birders, Qinling is also a very good place for you, you will not miss Crested Ibis on your list.

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