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Tibetan Antelope Numbers Rise
The population of Tibetan antelopes, which were once rampantly poached, has grown to 70,000 from 50,000 in 1997 in the Tibet Autonomous Region, thanks to protection efforts, according to local wildlife protection authorities.

"Tibetan antelopes began to enter a new period of rapidly restoring their population in 2001," said Zhoimayangzom, chief official of the wildlife protection section with the Tibet Regional Forestry Department.

According to a report on China's most endangered species released in 1997, there were only 50,000 Tibetan antelopes in Tibet, with another 25,000 in its neighboring western Qinghai Province and 15,000 in northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The antelope, which tops the state protection list for its uniqueness to China, scatter around the 600,000 square kilometers of neighboring nature reserves consisting of the Qiangtang Nature Reserve in Tibet, the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve in Qinghai and the Mount Altun Nature Reserve in Xinjiang.

"Active protection is the major factor behind the increase of Tibetan antelopes," said Zhoimayangzom. "About 4,000 antelopes were illegally poached every year in the mid-1990s in Tibet alone and that figure has been reduced to 300 or 400 now."

The poachers are usually driven by high profits from selling Tibetan antelope fur to international traffickers for making shahtoosh shawls, which costs the lives of three to five Tibetan antelopes to make one.

Meanwhile, work has started on the establishment of a breeding center for the rare animal in Tibet.

"If the plan succeeds, it would be another 'Save the Giant Panda' campaign by our government," said Zhoimayangzom.

(eastday.com March 27, 2003)

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