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Last Hunting Tribe in China Starts to Move out of Jungle

The last hunting tribe in China living deep in the Greater Hingan Mountain, the largest forest area in the country, moved out of the jungle on Sunday to make room for wild animals and plants.

Some 37 people from 11 families of the tribe arrived at their new home late Sunday in Genhe City of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, some 260 kilometers away from their previous residence, said Luo Jifang, deputy mayor of Genhe.

"More people from the tribe will follow," he said.

The Yakute tribe is one of the three branches of the Ewenki ethnic group. With a population of 169, they settled in Aoluguya in the northernmost part of Genhe in 1965 from the valley of Ergune River along the Sino-Russian border.

They used to live mainly on hunting and reindeer raising for food and income.

However, their living methods resulted in a sharp decline of wild animals and environment degradation in the area. Mushrooms and bryophyte on which reindeer mainly feed have almost disappeared in the area due to overgrazing.

It is estimated that it will take at least 25 years for bryophyte in the area to grow back to its original state.

Meanwhile, Aoluguya is under increasing flooding threat as a result of reckless logging in the area.

The decision to move out of the forest was made after consultations between the tribe and local authorities.

"The government is willing to make every effort to protect their traditional culture after they settled in their new homes," Luo said.

Houses with modern facilities for 62 Yakute families have been built in the western suburbs of Genhe, about two kilometers from the city center, together with 48 reindeer stables which cover an area of 16,800 square meters surrounded by dense forest.

"Reindeer raising will still be a major income for Yakute people, although they will be kept in stables instead of the traditional way of raising them in the wild," Luo said.

They could also take advantage of their unique culture to develop tourism, and meanwhile, people aged between 18 and 50 would be employed by the government to protect the forest, he said.

The relocation of the Yakute tribe is part of the Chinese people's efforts to protect forest and wild animals.

In the wake of the 1998 deluge that ravaged the Yangtze River and rivers in northeast China, which experts attributed mainly to excessive logging of forest in the water catchment areas, a nationwide green-for-grain campaign has been launched in which the government provided farmers with grain and cash subsidies in return for their quitting farming on hill slopes and grassland while planting trees and grasses.

Meanwhile, substantial steps have also been taken to protect wild animals, especially the rare and endangered species.

The Chinese government has pledged to earmark 11.2 million yuan(1.3 million US dollars) in the next two years to protect reindeer, which have been put under state protection.

The government expects to raise the reindeer population to more than 3,000 within 10 years from the current 700 through the protection of their habitat and breeding.
(People's Daily   Aug 11, 2003)

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