"Endless cries of monkeys echo across the Three Gorges when a light boat takes you through folded mountains and hills."
This vivid scene reflected in an ancient Chinese poem can once again be witnessed at the Three Gorges after a silence of several decades.
"Tourists can hear again the cries of monkeys when visiting the Three Gorges," said Huang Jin, a 28-year-old tourist guide from Wushan County, site of one of the gorges.
"I rarely saw monkeys here when I started my career as tourist guide in 1994," she said. "But now you can hear the cries of monkeys everywhere in the gorges."
Kong Xiangjian, a tourist from Beijing said the cries reminded him of the poem written by renowned ancient Chinese poet Li Bai.
According to textual research by zoologists, the Three Gorges was inhabited by a large number of monkeys since ancient times, but increasing human activities and the random felling of trees since the beginning of last century have made monkeys a rare sight.
The construction of the Three Gorges Hydropower Project has again drawn people's attention to the ecological environment in the reservoir areas.
It has been the most important task for local authorities to protect the biodiversity in the Three Gorges, according to Shui Hua, deputy director of the Wushan Administration located at one of the Three Gorges.
To cultivate a favorable ecological environment, Wushan County set up a special forest administration station and launched a series of moves to protect and expand vegetation.
The county has resolutely banned felling of trees and widely planted bamboo and various kinds of trees along the gorges. In addition, the county has moved to higher places a large number of rare trees that would have been submerged by storing water of the reservoir.
The number of monkeys in the Three Gorges has now developed to nearly 10,000 from only a few hundred in the mid-1980s, said Shui, adding that the county gives out more than 40 tons of corn annually to the monkeys as additional food.
Besides heavy vegetation and the reappearance of monkeys in the Three Gorges, a great number of other water birds have appeared again, the official noted.
The vegetation protection in Wushan is only part of the overall ecological protection drive in the Three Gorges reservoir areas, Shui said.
More than 80 percent of the reservoir areas are under the jurisdiction of Chongqing Municipality, which has managed to enhance its forest coverage rate to the present 25 percent from 10.3 percent recorded years ago.
(Xinhua News Agency May 26, 2003)