Forestry authorities yesterday began a long-term program to protect most of China's wild picturesque natural ecosystems, as well as key flora and fauna, during the next five decades.
During the 2001-10 period, the program will focus on rescuing and breeding China's 15 rare or endangered species of wild animals - such as the giant panda - building 524 new natural reserves and listing 80 key wetlands on the international important wetlands list.
Zhou Shengxian, top official of the State Forestry Administration (SFA), made it clear the plan will enable China to put "more than 90 percent of its rare and endangered wild animals and typical natural ecosystems under effective protection in 10 years."
Announcing the official start of the program (2001-50), Zhou said, in the 2001-10 period, the government will try its best to realize some significant goals.
Under the protection, China's 15 rare and endangered species of wild flora and fauna - including the giant panda, crested ibis, tiger (Siberian, South China and Bengal tigers), Tibet antelope and cycad - are to be rehabilitated.
By 2010, the country's natural reserves are to total 1,800 and cover 155 million hectares of land - more than 16 percent of China's total territory - in headwaters of China's major rivers and areas featuring intact bio-diversity but fragile ecosystems.
The reserves are expected to reach 2,500 by 2050, protecting more than 178 million hectares - 18 percent of China's total territory.
To date, the government has set up a total of 1,276 natural reserves of various kinds throughout China, covering 123 million hectares of area - 12 percent of the total territory.
China has more than 66 million hectares of wetlands, 40 percent natural. So far, 74 percent of China's existing wetlands have been protected by establishing 289 wetland preserves of various types. While intensifying the protection of China's existing wetlands, the country hopes to gradually recover some degenerated areas to stall the tendency of natural wetland shrinkage caused by human activities in recent years, Zhou said.
To co-ordinate the protection, seeding and utilization of China's resources of wild flora and fauna, a large group of research centers will be set up to ensure the sustainable development of such resources.
China has, since 1979, set up 14 rescue centers for wild animals and more than 400 breeding centers for rare and endangered animal and plant species.
(China Daily December 22, 2001)