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Funeral Held for First Human-raised Tibetan Antelope
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A special funeral has been held to mourn the death of a Tibetan antelope which had been raised from the day it was born in the high-altitude Hol Xil nature reserve, northwest China's Qinghai Province, sources said Thursday.


Nicknamed "Ai Ling," the four-year-old male antelope was the first Tibetan antelope raised by humans in the world. He had been living in a small herd of four male and four female antelopes in the "no-man's land" of Hol Xil, according to Cega, director of the Hol Xil nature reserve administration.


Ai Ling had had numerous fights with another four-year-old male antelope and died of injuries on Dec. 1. Staff with the nature reserve could not save Ai Ling, Cega said.


"The male animals will defend to the death their right to breed," he said.


Ai Ling was buried at the Tibetan antelope rescue center, at an altitude of some 4,600 meters on the Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau. The center held a grand funeral for Ai Ling attended by 50 center staff members and environmental protection volunteers from across the country on Wednesday.


"Ai Ling forged a deep friendship with his caretakers during the past four years. He is a good friend and brother to us all," Cega said.


Ai Ling became an orphan the day he was born. Armed poachers killed his mother in July 2001. Mountain patrol found the infant antelope lingering around his mother's body and reluctant to leave even though vultures were hovering above.


The patrol rescued Ai Ling and brought him to the rescue center in the nature reserve.


The Tibet-Qinghai Plateau is the habitat of the Tibetan antelope and their population has dropped from several million to below 100,000 in the past two decades due to extensive poaching and human encroachment of their habitat.


Since 1979, the Tibetan antelope has been recognized as an endangered species and protected under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species. Since 1989, the species has been listed as a Class-A protected wildlife in China's Wildlife Protection Law.


"We erected a gravestone for Ai Ling to advocate the equality of life, and appeal for humans to love animals and build a harmonious environment between man and nature," Cega said.


(Xinhua News Agency December 23, 2005)

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