Are you an animal lover?
China isn’t widely known as a top destination if you want to see cute, weird or beautifully dangerous animals.
However, it definitely has furry residents that you won’t see anywhere else in the world.
You’ll probably have to spend some time at a zoo, breeding center, or safari park to see some of these animals, but they’re well worth the trip.
So, here are 11 amazing animals that you can see in China.
1. Giant panda
This is probably the most well-known entry on the list.
Giant pandas are one of China’s biggest tourist attractions. They’re unique to China and, despite their size, are deceptively cute and cuddly looking.
Unfortunately, due to human activities, there are only around 1,800 giant pandas left in the wild. So, you’ll need to go to a breeding center or zoo to see one while you’re in China.
All the best places to see giant pandas in China are in the city of Chengdu:
- Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding – the most popular
- Dujiangyan Panda Base – has volunteering options
- Wolong Panda Center – also has volunteering options.
I recommend the Chengdu Research Base because it has beautiful, natural enclosures and isn’t too far from downtown Chengdu.
2. Chinese giant salamander
These unusual animals look like lizards but are amphibians rather than reptiles. They can breathe underwater but often live on land.
They’re also the largest species of giant salamander in the world and can grow to almost 6 feet in length, weighing around 130 pounds. In captivity, they’ve been known to live for up to 60 years.
Giant salamanders are one of the most threatened amphibians in the world.
This is mostly due to the fact that they’re farmed and bred in central China as a luxury food item, though the Chinese government has been taking steps to curb this activity.
You can see Chinese giant salamanders at the Beijing Zoo.
3. Siberian tiger
If you’re obsessed in big cats, then you must take the chance to see a Siberian tiger while in China.
Siberian tigers are the biggest tiger breed and the largest of the big cats.
These rare big cats were driven to the brink of extinction in the 1930s but breeding programs have brought them back from the edge.
Thanks to these breeding programs in Russia and China, there are now around 600 tigers in the wild in Russia and 30 in China as well as thousands in captivity.
You can get close to these truly majestic creatures in safari parks and zoos. Just keep in mind that these kinds of places in China can be pretty depressing.
One of the biggest and most well-known places to see Siberian tigers and other big cats is the Harbin Siberian Tiger Park in north China.
This breeding center is not for the faint-hearted or if you’re vegan. For an extra fee you can watch a tiger kill and eat a live animal of your choosing, from around $10 for a chicken up to $440 for a cow.
4. Golden snub-nosed monkey
These adorable little fluff balls live in the mountains in China’s center and southwest.
Because of the cool climates in these areas, they have thick hair that ranges in color from golden brown to golden red. They also have small, pale blue faces that are undeniably cute!
The golden snub-nosed monkey is one of China’s national treasures. Unfortunately, it’s also endangered and can only be seen outside of China in a few zoos in South Korea and Japan.
You can see one of these tiny creatures at the:
- Yunnan Golden Monkey National Park
- Beijing Zoo
- Baihe Nature Reserve
- Wanglang Nature Reserve.
5. Golden pheasant
The golden pheasant, also known as the Chinese pheasant, is fairly distinctive. The male birds are mostly golden in color with touches of red, dark green, and blue.
In contrast, the females are smaller, brown, and actually look very little like their brighter mates! These birds are native to mountainous parts of western China but today can be found all over the world.
In Chinese culture, this rainbow-colored bird is thought to be an ancestor of the phoenix. However, it’s actually a game bird and is closely related to chickens and turkeys.
Like their more common cousins, the golden pheasant can only fly in short bursts and prefers to run on the ground instead.
You can see golden pheasants in zoos throughout China but there are also populations in other parts of the world like the US, Mexico, UK, some European countries, Australia, and New Zealand.
6. Red panda
The endangered red pandas are ridiculously adorable. They’re slightly larger than a house cat and come from central China and the Himalayas.
Small, shy, and good at hiding, red pandas are rarely seen in the wild, but you can catch a glimpse of them at the giant panda centers in China (though they’re not nearly as popular).
Despite carrying the same name, red pandas aren’t closely related to giant pandas. But they do have a distinct liking for bamboo, the same as their larger counterparts. They also eat leaves, fruit, and insects.
You shouldn’t expect to see red pandas in the wild because they’re really good at hiding, but you can see them in most zoos in China and zoos around the world.
7. Père David’s deer
Named after the French zoologist and priest who first wrote about them, this deer species lives in the river valleys of China.
It’s a slightly peculiar deer species, known to the locals as sì bú xiàng (四不像) which means ‘four ways of being unalike’. This slightly strange name came about because the deer have necks like camels, hooves like cows, antlers like deer, and tails like donkeys.
These deer were hunted to extinction in China by the late 19th century.
However, European travelers had already taken specimens back home to zoos. The deer were successfully bred in captivity and several dozen deer were donated to the Chinese government in the 1980s and released into the wild.
As a result, there are thousands of wild deer in China today as well as several populations in nature reserves.
8. Finless porpoise
The finless porpoise is native to the Yangtze River, the longest river in Asia.
The river also used to be home to Baiji dolphins, but they were declared extinct due to human activity in 2006.
This slightly strange looking animal is the only dolphin in the porpoise family that lacks a dorsal fin.
The finless porpoise has a cheeky smile and an intelligence level that’s roughly equal to that of a gorilla. Unfortunately, they’re also critically endangered, with only around 1,000 animals left, and confined to a few small areas of the Yangtze River.
If humans don’t act soon, the finless porpoise could be extinct within 10 years.
9. Tibetan macaque
The Tibetan macaque is the largest breed of macaque in the world.
The males can grow as large as 27 inches and weigh as much as 38 pounds. Females are much smaller, at 20-24 inches and up to 28 pounds.
These large monkeys live in south and central China and Tibet and have dense coats that range from grey to brown with a mostly hairless face.
They also have a fairly short tail, which is why they are sometimes called Chinese stump-tailed macaques.
You can find these large monkeys at:
- Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (where Avatar was filmed)
- Mt Emei Natural Ecology Monkey Reserve
- Monkey Valley in the Yellow Mountains Scenic Area.
You can read this article for more things to do in Mt Emei, which is a fairly quick bullet train ride from Chengdu.
10. Clouded leopard
You would have to be very, very lucky to see one of these animals in the wild.
The clouded leopard lives in the foothills of the Himalayas in south China. These beautiful, medium-sized cats have bodies that range from greyish brown to yellowish brown in color with cloud-like blotches and white underparts.
The clouded leopard is mostly found in the trees and can actually climb down vertical tree trunks headfirst in an amazing feat of dexterity. They’re nocturnal and spend most of the day sleeping in trees, venturing out at night to hunt.
Clouded leopard numbers have been declining sharply over the last few decades and have already gone extinct in places like Singapore, Vietnam and Taiwan.
The main threats to these beautiful cats are deforestation and poaching.
You can see the clouded leopard at the Beijing Zoo and other wildlife parks in China.
11. Asian black bear
When you’re looking for amazing animals, you can’t go past a bear!
The Asian black bear is one of the most dangerous animals in China. It’s also known as the Himalayan bear, Tibetan bear, or moon bear and is found in the forests of northeast China as well as in countries such as India, Iran, Korea, and Russia.
These bears are omnivores and will eat everything from fruits and nuts to small animals and domestic livestock.
Unfortunately, the gallbladder and bile duct of the black bear are highly valued in traditional medicines, so the animals are hunted and farmed for their body parts, leaving them vulnerable to extinction.
Animals in China are amazing
Although China isn’t known for its animal experiences, it still offers a collection of strange, unique, and sometimes cute animals for you to see.
Just remember that you’re unlikely to see any of the animals on this list in the wild, with the exception of monkeys. And even then, you’d have to head out of the main cities to see them.
Having said that, I particularly enjoyed seeing the golden snub-nosed monkey while I was in China. They’re unbearably cute with their little fluffy faces!
When you visit China, make sure that you appeal to the animal lover in you and take the time to see some of the country’s rare and amazing animal residents.
And please, if you are going to be around animals of any kind in China, remember to get vaccinated for rabies. See my article on vaccinations for China for more helpful information!
Main image credit: Zhong Hua on Shutterstock.
FAQ about animals in China
What animals live in China?
Wild animals that live in China include the panda, Chinese giant salamander, golden snub-nosed monkey, Siberian tiger and golden pheasant.
What is China’s most popular animal?
It’s undoubtedly the giant panda. It’s one of China’s national symbols and adored across the country.
Do tigers live in China?
It’s believed that there’s a tiny group (30-50) of Siberian tigers still left in the wild in China. Sadly, most tigers in China are held in captivity.
What’s the deadliest animal in China?
The Asian black bear can be aggressive towards humans, and the Siberian tiger is also capable of killing humans. However, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll come across either of these animals in China.
What animals are endangered in China?
Numerous animals are endangered in China including the giant panda, snow leopard, Chinese pangolin, finless porpoise, and various species of monkey such as the snub-nosed monkey.