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Volunteers Help Curb Poaching

Tibetan antelopes in the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve have been grazing in peace since June 2 when the reserve administration patrol team apprehended four poachers in the area.

June and July are the months when Tibetan antelopes come together to mate, which usually draws poachers to the area, who come for the animals' precious cashmere. Fortunately, there have been no signs of poachers in the region over the past three weeks, said an administration official surnamed Wang yesterday.

"The current security of the antelopes comes thanks to the work of the reserve administration over the past years, despite the harsh environment and living conditions," said Yang Zhen, who has just finished a one-month voluntary service stint with the reserve.

"We often saw flocks of Tibetan antelopes running outside our tent. On occasion, I ran across antelope skeletons, but they all looked like they had been there for a long time."

Yang, 38, who has worked for Beijing's Environment Protection Bureau for 12 years, went to the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve with nine other volunteers from other parts of the country on May 10. He and another volunteer were assigned to the Zhuonai River protection station 4,790 metres above sea level, an isolated and sparsely inhabited area.

Living conditions there are really harsh, he said. The station only has one big tent, where the volunteers and five station members lived together. Vegetables and meat are all sent from Golmud, a city 430 kilometres away. A river not far from the tent provides sufficient water, but getting the water from the river is not an easy job.

Yang, in good physical shape from working out in a gym for the past couple of years, said he had to stop several times to rest when he carried water from the river to the tent, even though the distance was just over 100 metres.

"When you are that high above sea level, the air is very thin and your energy is quickly sapped," he explained.

So the members of the station wash their faces only once a week and shower once a month. "When we started our patrol work, we just forgot about our faces," he joked.

Over the past month, the volunteers participated in the patrols, checking passing vehicles for evidence of poaching, and working to promote awareness of the need to protect endangered animals among the local people.

Cai Ga, director of the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve Administration, said bringing volunteers to the reserve not only increases public awareness of the need to protect the environment, but also helps to dissuade possible poachers.

( China Daily June 21, 2002)

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