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|Rescuing Endangered Animals and Plants|
China has rich biodiversity, boasting the world's largest number of bird species and gymnosperm varieties. But China's biodiversity is faced with a critical situation: 15 to 20 percent of higher plant varieties are endangered, threatening the existence of 40,000 species of organisms associated with them.
Wild deer on the snowy grasslands of Baiyin Aobao Natural Reserve, Chifeng, Inner Mongolia
As one of the earliest contracting countries to the Convention on Biological Diversity, China has been active in international affairs concerning the Convention and vocal on important issues related to biodiversity. China is also one of the few countries to complete the Convention's action plans. The China Action Plan for Biodiversity Conservation implemented in 1994 provided rules and regulations for many eco-environmental protection activities. According to the Law on the Protection of Wildlife, any criminal act damaging wildlife resources is subject to punishment.
The government departments concerned stress effective protection of biological resources, establishing over 400 centers for the raising of wild plant varieties or genetic protection, and artificially breeding thousands of wild plants. In January 2003, the Chinese Academy of Sciences launched a project to save endangered plants, its aims being to increase plant varieties from 13,000 to 21,000 under the protection of its 12 affiliated botanic gardens within 15 years, and to build a botanic garden covering a total area of 458 sq km, which will be the world's largest. The project involves over 300 million yuan investment into the collection of rare and endangered plants, and gene banks will be built with centers in Qinling Mountain, Wuhan, Xishuangbanna and Beijing.
To help save endangered wildlife, 250 wildlife breeding centers have been established throughout the country, and special projects conducted to protect seven species, including the giant panda and red ibis. The giant panda population, seen as a national treasure and living animal fossil, has risen from 1,100 to 1,596 and the number of human-raised pandas amounted to 183; their conditions continue to improve. The red ibis population has increased from seven to over 1,000, relieving that bird's endangered situation. The population of artificially bred Chinese alligators is over 10,000. The population of Eld's deer in Hainan has increased from 26 to over 1,600. The population of relic gulls has increased from 2,000 to more than 10,000. Sightings of tigers, rare in recent times, have been reported in the northeastern, eastern and southern parts of China. The number of artificially bred South-China tigers grew to 68 while the number of Northeast tigers has exceeded 1,300. In freshwater dolphin studies, China's research on white-flag dolphins leads the world and its research on artificial breeding of white-flag dolphins has accelerated. Thanks to persistent combat against poaching and the cooperation of many international animal protection organizations, the Tibetan antelope population, which had shrunk sharply because of poaching, has stayed at about 190,000.
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