China’s central government as well as local authorities are seeking ways to protect the more than 20,000 kiangs (Asiatic wild asses) that left Mongolia over the past year to seek greener pastures in China’s Inner Mongolia.
Researchers say that in part the influx of the animal, which is on the endangered species list of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, can be attributed to normal migratory patterns. But they also point to overcrowding in the herd as well as recent drought in Mongolia.
Local people remember the kiangs from the 1950s when they were a common sight in Inner Mongolia.
“They always ran in line. Seeing us, the kiangs would gallop away, looking back at us all the way,” recalled one local herdsman.
Hunting, encroaching desert and reclamation of grassland took its toll on the kiang so that by the 1960s they gradually vanished from Inner Mongolia as they did from other areas where they found a habitat – Mongolia, Iran and Australia. In early 2000, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) put kiangs on the list of endangered species, announcing that only some 2,000 were left in the world.
So the latest report by the Forestry Bureau of Bayanzhuo’er League (in the western part of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region) that the total number of kiangs had reached 20,000 there by the end of September 2000 can be considered good news world-wide.
By November of 2000, the Bayanzhuo’er League had allocated 20 million yuan (US$2.42 million) to the kiangs’ protection. More than 40 reservoirs were built to assure their water supply. Other steps to protect the animal included establishing a patrol team of more than 30 policemen with check-points on major highways to deter illegal hunting of the kiangs for fur or meat. The local government also placed public service announcements in the local media to inform people about the animal.
The kiang migration has brought some problems to local herdsman.
“The kiangs were so smart that they took the best pasture. We had to move a long way to feed my sheep,” said one.
The local government has compensated owners of pastures taken by kiangs, and most herdsmen are said to be cooperating because of their awareness of the need to protect such a rare animal.