China is going to conduct thorough research on the number of wild Tibetan antelopes and their living conditions in 2006.
The research will be jointly undertaken in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Qinghai Province and Tibet Autonomous Region, where most Tibetan antelopes live, according to sources with a conference on the protection of Tibetan antelopes held in Xinjiang's capital of Urumqi on Wednesday.
According to a 10-year research project by Dr. George Schaller, an expert with the International Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), China had 75,000 Tibetan antelopes on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau in 1999.
However, the current results of local and international organizations vary from 30,000 to 100,000. The exact number of Tibetan antelopes in China today remains unclear.
"Chinese Tibetan antelopes scatter in an area of more than 700,000 square kilometers. The three regions used to count them, but the result was inaccurate owing to the timing, methods and the migrant nature of the Tibetan antelopes," said Mu Han, deputy director of Xinjiang Regional Forestry Department.
Xie Yan, the project officer of WCS China office, said this species cannot be well protected unless thorough research is done on its number, living area and behaviors.
Local officials held that the joint research needs more financial aid from the Chinese government and assistance by the relevant international organizations.
The Tibetan antelope, an endangered species at the top of China's protection list, is native to the grasslands of China's Qinghai, Xinjiang and Tibet. The three areas have the world's major Tibetan antelope habitats.
The population of the species shrank sharply last century, mainly due to rampant poaching and the degeneration of the environment. International traffickers use the antelopes to make shahtoosh shawls, a luxury item that requires the fur of three to five antelopes to make just one.
The Tibetan antelope has been recognized as an endangered species and has been protected under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)in the past 25 years since 1979. Since 1989, the animal has been listed as a Class-A protected animal in China's Wildlife Protection Law.
(Xinhua News Agency August 25, 2005)