This landmark three-part special, Wild China, gains unprecedented access into this most enigmatic of countries, to reveal a land of astonishing complexity. A land of immense cultural diversity and a wide range of traditional lifestyles – often in close partnership with nature. However, China faces immense social and environmental problems– many rare species unique to the region are teetering on endangerment or even more disturbing, extinction. Now for the first time, we can explore the whole of this country and the surprising creatures who live there – from steaming forests to ice-cold mountain peaks. This is Wild China. Here’s a sneak peak of some of the most rare and vulnerable animal species featured in Sunday’s triple stack.
The panda has long been known in China. It was mentioned in dictionaries more than two thousand years ago and the Imperial garden is said to have housed one. At a meter and a half long and a hundred and thirty five kilos, the giant panda is member of the bear family famous for its exclusive bamboo diet.
This fearsome-looking beast is a Chinese alligator known as the muddy dragon. Despite its association with the mythical Chinese dragon, the reptile has long been regarded by country people as a fish-eating pest, and has been persecuted almost to the point of extinction.
The golden takin lives in the Himalayan Mountains. This animal is considered to be an endangered species. The size of a buffalo and with a temper to match, this is the original owner of the Golden Fleece.
Francois’ Langur One of the world’s rarest primates, in China they survive in just two provinces. The Langurs are very social creatures and spend a great deal of time grooming each other. The Langurs are essentially vegetarian monkey’s, feeding on a diet of fruits, leaves, and buds.
There may be less than a dozen wild Siberian tigers left in China, though there are many more in breeding centers. Trade in tiger parts was banned in China in the 1990s and the breeding center is now just a tourist attraction.
The Siberian crane – known in China as the white crane – is seen as a symbol of good luck. Each year, almost the entire world population of these critically endangered birds makes a 5,500 mile round-trip to spend the winter at Poyang.
These are golden snub-nosed monkeys, a species unique to China. Seldom seen, they are frequently heard. Their strange child-like calls and extraordinary appearance may have inspired the local tales of a Yeti-like “wild man of the mountains.”
Crested ibises need wetlands for feeding, and rice paddies are the perfect place to hunt for eels, frogs, and snails. The birds and farmers had probably co-existed here for thousands of years – until the twentieth century when in many parts of China rice was replaced by more profitable wheat production. Crested ibis numbers rapidly declined – at one point they were even believed to be extinct.
This bizarre animal is a type of newt – the Chinese giant salamander. In China it is known as the ‘baby-fish’ because when distressed it makes a sound like a crying infant. It grows up to a metre and a half long– making it the world’s largest amphibian.