Satellite positioning aids in wildlife protection in China

(Xinhua) 10:56, March 21, 2024

XINING, March 20 (Xinhua) -- On the vast Jinyintan Grasslands in northwest China's Qinghai Province, a fluffy Chinese desert cat named Huang Tai Ji is roaming around in search of prey. It is hard to believe this adorable and inquisitive feline was a scared and injured creature only a few months ago.

According to its rescuers, Huang Tai Ji was caught in a mousetrap while hunting for chickens in a herder's yard in Qinghai's Haiyan County in June 2023. Listed as a national first-class protected animal in China, the Chinese desert cat is a precious feline species of great importance to ecological diversity.

Fortunately, the trap did not hurt its bones, and Huang Tai Ji was soon rescued and transported to Xining Wildlife Park in Qinghai's capital city of Xining for treatment.

The park decided to release Huang Tai Ji into the wild after about a month of treatment and recovery. Together with researchers from the College of Veterinary Medicine of China Agricultural University, rescuers set the cat free on July 23, 2023. A satellite positioning collar was attached to the animal.

It was the first time a Chinese desert cat was released with a satellite positioning device attached to it, said Qi Xinzhang, deputy director of Xining Wildlife Park.

"The collar collects information concerning its latitude, longitude, altitude, temperature, and even instantaneous velocity via GPS satellite positioning technology, and uploads the data every two hours," said Qi. Thanks to such information, Qi and his colleagues can effectively monitor the cat's condition and activities.

"We can tell from the collected data whether the cat is captured or injured, and thus offer timely aid should any emergency happen," he added.

The collar does not only provide researchers with quick solutions to saving the cat's life. In addition, Qi is able to pinpoint Huang Tai Ji's movement range on a satellite map, which revealed a total range measuring about 200 square kilometers, while highlighting a 36-square-kilometer area where the cat spent most of its time.

"Previous research suggested that the average active area of Chinese desert cats was only about 3.3 square kilometers. With insights provided by satellite positioning collars, we got to learn that the roaming area for this cat is much larger, shedding new light on related studies," said Qi.

Based on collected data, Xining Wildlife Park officials set up eight infrared cameras in the areas where Huang Tai Ji was most commonly found, and obtained lots of valuable information about the cat and other wild animals in this region.

"We now have a better understanding of the living environment, diet, and natural rivals of Chinese desert cats, all thanks to the satellite positioning collar," Qi said.

Satellite positioning technology not only offers a more efficient way to protect and study the Chinese desert cat, but is also empowering wildlife preservation in various other places in China.

According to a report released by China's Beidou Navigation Satellite System, satellite positioning devices have been used for the protection and research of endangered animals ranging from Asian elephants to giant pandas. In addition to accurate positioning data, the system also offers innovative functions including signal-free telegraph communication, enabling field researchers to track animals in remote areas.

Qi believes technologies like satellite positioning are the future of wildlife preservation.

"We will keep releasing rescued Chinese desert cats fitted with satellite positioning collars, and initiate artificial breeding of these cats based on what we have learned," Qi said.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


Related Stories