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More nature reserves to guard resources
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More nature reserves will be designated to preserve the country's rich natural resources and biodiversity, a senior forest official said yesterday in Beijing.

Zhu Lieke, deputy director of the State Forestry Administration (SFA), said that by 2020, the SFA will designate 2,300 areas specially to protect forests, wild animals and other natural resources.

The reserves will cover a combined 140 million hectares, or 14.5 percent of the mainland's total land area.

These nature reserves will include 95 percent of the country's plants and wild animal species under State key protection, Zhu told a press conference.

The country will also have more than 600 wetland nature reserves by 2020, protecting more than 60 percent of its total natural wetlands, he said.

China has planted 53.3 million hectares of forests in the past 58 years, more than any other country in the world, with the forest coverage rate rising from 8.6 percent to 18.2 percent, the administration said.

The country also aims to raise forest coverage to 20 percent by 2010, 23 percent by 2020 and 26 percent by 2050 from the current 18.6 percent, said Zhu.

The SFA figures show that the current number of nature reserves under the administration stands at about 1,740, accounting for 12.6 percent of the country's total land area.

South China tiger

SFA spokesman Cao Qingyao yesterday refused to concede that controversial photographs of a rare South China tiger in the wild are fake.

He reserved judgment on the authenticity of the pictures, which have caused a furore on the Internet, saying that more concrete evidence was needed.

In October, Zhou Zhenglong, a farmer from Zhenping County, Shaanxi Province, claimed he had snapped 71 photos of a tiger in the forest near his home.

The provincial forestry bureau later cited experts as saying that it was a South China tiger, a subspecies believed to have been extinct in the wild for more than three decades.

However, many scientists and Internet users have denounced the pictures as fake.

An appraisal center affiliated to the China Photographers Society said on Sunday a team of photographic experts concluded the pictures were fake.

Cao said an expert panel dispatched to Zhenping County last month would wait until the first snowfall to conduct a field investigation.

"The special investigation team consists of 10 experienced experts in tigers and large felines, selected by the administration," Cao said.

The experts will install infrared cameras to "take photos and collect more traces of various wild animals", including South China tigers, leopards and black bears, in an area covering 200,000 hectares defined by the administration, Cao said.

"We will announce the investigation results to the public in due course," he said.

(China Daily December 5, 2007)

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