Game wardens high on the Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau are mourning the death of a Tibetan antelope - killed in a mating battle - that they had raised from the day it was born, an orphan.
The endangered Tibetan antelope is one of the five national mascots of Beijing's 2008 Olympic Games.
Nicknamed "Ai Ling," the 4-year-old antelope was killed by another antelope in a fight over the right to breed.
A funeral is planned.
Ai Ling lived in a small herd of four male and four female antelope in the high-altitude Hol Xil nature reserve, west China's Qinghai Province.
Ai Ling had fought numerous battles with another 4-year-old male antelope. He finally died of injuries on December 1. Male antelope will fight to the death over mating rights.
Staff with the nature reserve tried to save Ai Ling, but their efforts were in vain, said Cega, director of the Hol Xil nature reserve administration.
Ai Ling became an orphan the day he was born. Armed poachers killed his mother in July 2001. When the mountain patrol found the infant antelope, he was lingering near his mother's body and reluctant to leave even though vultures were hovering. A patrol saved Ai Ling and took him to a protection station in the reserve. In the care of patrol members, Ai Ling grew up to become the first Tibetan antelope to be successfully reared by human beings.
"We are very sad about Ai Ling's death as the friendship between us was profound," Cega said, adding a funeral is planned for the antelope in the reserve's vast "no-man's land."
International poachers and traffickers make shahtoosh shawls, a luxury item, each requiring three to five Tibetan antelope pelts.
Since 1979, the Tibetan antelope has been recognized as an endangered species; less than 100,000 remain today, though they once numbered several million.
(Xinhua News Agency December 14, 2005)