China Sees Remarkable Progress in Wildlife Protection
China has attached great importance to wildlife protection and made remarkable progress in wildlife conservation and breeding in recent years, thanks to the concerted efforts of the government and all sectors of society.
① Photo shows a crested ibis in flight in Yangxian county, northwest China's Shaanxi Province. (Photo/Xinhua) ② Photo shows the picturesque scenery of the Hainan Tropical Rainforest National Park in south China's Hainan Province. (Photo/Xinhua) ③ Photo shows golden snub-nosed monkeys in Huangyang township, Pingwu county, southwest China's Sichuan Province. (People’s Daily Online/Liu Guoxing) ④ Photo shows elks in a wetland in Yancheng city, east China's Jiangsu Province. (People’s Daily Online/Sun Jialu)
In the Hoh Xil nature reserve in northwest China's Qinghai Province, the population of Tibetan antelopes, which are viewed as a treasure of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and are under first-class state protection, has surged from less than 20,000 to around 70,000, thanks to the conservation efforts, Zhao Xinlu, director of the Sonam Dargye protection station in the reserve, told People’s Daily Online.
The reserve has not reported any poaching for more than a decade, Zhao added, explaining that the species’ population has increased to over 300,000 in the plateau.
But things were different a few decades ago, when the Tibetan antelope population declined sharply due to poaching sprees, Zhao recalled.
To protect the species, China has banned all commercial exports involving Tibetan antelopes and related products since 1981. The country also opened three nature reserves in the antelopes’ habitats, including the Hoh Xil nature reserve, and appointed special protection agencies to regularly patrol their habitats and fight illegal hunting.
In the Yueyang section of the Yangtze River and Dongting Lake area in central China’s Hunan Province, the sight of endangered Yangtze finless porpoises jumping up for a gulp of for air has become more common in recent years, thanks to Yueyang city’s protection efforts.
The city rolled out measures to reduce the impact of excessive human activities, including overfishing and sand excavation, in the lake. In 2017, it established a finless porpoise protection team that includes former fishermen, and has implemented a fishing ban across the board in the lake since December 2019.
The city’s Yueyang county has invested 120 million yuan in expanding habitats for finless porpoises, and has also made more food sources available to the species in recent years.
A survey on finless porpoises conducted by the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs in 2017 showed that there was a wild population of 1,012 in the 1,700-km middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze. The survey found 445 finless porpoises in the mainstream of the river, while the other porpoises were found in the Poyang and Dongting lakes connected to the busy waterway.
The latest survey showed that the trend of rapid decline of the species has been contained, said Hao Yujiang, a researcher with the Institute of Hydrobiology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
China has been trying to increase the mammal’s population through breeding and reintroduction programs.
In northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, the country spent nearly 40 years bringing back the crested ibis, known as an “auspicious bird”, from the brink of extinction.
In 1981, Chinese ornithologist Liu Yinzeng discovered seven wild crested ibises – which were thought to be the last remaining specimens in the world – in Yangxian County in the province.
Shortly after this exciting discovery, the local government prohibited activities including hunting, tree cutting, using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and reclaiming wasteland in designated areas to protect the species. A protection team made up of four members was established to protect the birds 24 hours a day.
China has been successful in captive breeding of crested ibises. In 2007, 26 captive-bred crested ibises were released into the wild for the first time.
After years of conservation, the crested ibis population has been growing steadily. There are more than 5,000 crested ibises in the world today, including over 4,400 in China, with 4,100 located in Shaanxi.
A similar story is unfolding in southwest China’s Yunnan Province, where the country has strengthened the protection of wild Asian elephants, which are under first-class state protection.
China established the Xishuangbanna national nature reserve for protecting the species in Yunnan’s Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, one of their primary habitats. In 2008, the Asian Elephant breeding and rescue center in the nature reserve was established, which has rescued over 20 Asian elephants and delivered nine calves so far.
Thanks to relentless protection efforts, the wild elephant population in China has grown to about 300, according to Chen Mingyong, an Asian elephant expert with Yunnan University.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has rolled out measures, such as constructing prevention projects, carrying out monitoring and building food bases for the endangered species, to solve the problem of human-elephant conflicts due to a rise in the animal’s numbers.
To better preserve the species and prevent possible human-elephant conflicts, Xishuangbanna set up an Asian elephant monitoring and warning center in Menghai county in 2018, which uses drones and infrared cameras to monitor elephants and releases real-time early warning information.