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Mission Created to Save Rare Species in Tibet
Fifteen volunteers will travel to Hoh Xil, in northern Tibet Autonomous Region on May 1 to visit China's largest nature reserve.

In the following three months, they will venture into the depths of the reserve to work with local anti-poaching teams.

Over 3,500 people from both home and abroad sent in applications to apply for a volunteer job in Hoh Xil Nature Reserve. About 100 of them have been taken on and will join the project.

The reserve covers an area of 45,000 square kilometers and has an altitude of 4,000 to 5,000 meters above sea level. It is home to more than 20 rare animal species under State protection, including the yak and the Tibetan antelope.

Profitable shahtoosh trade overseas has led to rampant poaching of Tibetan antelope in the alpine grassland areas on the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau.

A medium-sized shahtoosh shawl costs the lives of three antelopes and can sell at more than US$30,000 on the international market.

The population of Tibetan antelopes has decreased from more than several million in the early 20th century to 50,000 today. The number of antelopes is shrinking by 20,000 every year.

Over the past few years, efforts have been made by the reserve to root out illegal hunters. Anti-poaching teams take frequent patrols in the reserve.

The poaching cases have decreased by 60 percent over the past year. Yet, thousands of Tibetan antelopes were killed by poachers, according to Cai Ga, director of the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve Administration Bureau.

"We hope that the volunteer project will help more people know about the condition in Hoh Xil and the urgent task in protecting Tibetan antelopes," said Cai Ga. The work of anti-poaching teams is tough and risky, Cai added. Sometimes team members are attacked by extremist hunters.

Yet, many applicants had expressed their enthusiasm and interest in the project.

(China Daily April 5, 2002)

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