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Wildlife Conservation Heroes Honored
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The first non-governmental organization (NGO) award for wildlife conservation, the China Wildlife Conservation Award, sponsored by the China Environmental Protection Foundation (CEPF) and US-based WildAid, was granted to five Chinese individuals and collectives in Beijing on Thursday.


Five gold medal winners were selected by the award's expert committee for the inaugural award.


"This award might be the highest honor I get in my life, and I resolve to go on protecting wildlife in my remaining years," said Zhang Chunshan, one of the winners.


Zhang, a farmer in southwest China's Yunnan Province, braved pressure and threats when he blew the whistle on the mass destruction of Chinese yew trees by a local enterprise some five years ago. He also successfully campaigned for the guilty parties' punishment by law.


Yang Xin, another winner, has worked on environmental protection in the upstream area of the Yangtze River for the past 18 years.


"If the ecological problems in this area aren't handled properly, it is possible that in the near future the glacier will disappear completely and the Yangtze River trickle through the middle of a desert," said Yang.


A state-level nature reserve in Hubei Province was honored for re-introducing David's Deer into China.


The Urumqi Anti-smuggling Department in Xinjiang received merit for uncovering cases of smuggling of endangered species.


The Dadian Nature Reserve in southernmost China's Hainan Province was awarded for reproducing endangered species.


"China is playing an increasingly vital role in protecting wildlife internationally. I hope Chinese people can keep fighting against the illegal trade and hunting of wildlife," said Steve Trent, president of WildAid.


"China has made quite a few breakthroughs in wildlife conservation in recent years, especially in raising public awareness on the subject," said Qu Geping, president of the board of directors of CEPF. "However, illegal hunting and trading of wildlife here remain rampant, so we still have a difficult task ahead."


CEPF, founded in 1993, is the first NGO dedicated to environmental protection in China.


In 1992, Qu, the first administrator of the China National Environmental Protection Bureau, was awarded the United Nations Sasakawa Environment Prize, one of the most prestigious international environmentalism prizes.


He used all of the US$100,000 award money to establish the CEPF.


(Xinhua News Agency, CRI.com May 20, 2005)

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