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China Takes Scientific Steps to Protect Rare Antelopes
A project researching the biology of Tibetan antelopes and ways to protect them has been launched at the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve in northwest China's Qinghai Province.

The biological characteristics of both an individual Tibetan antelope and a whole community can be discovered by studying their numbers, distribution, population structure and habits, according to experts.

Scientists also plan to advance technology for artificially breeding the rare antelopes and disease prevention, in an attempt to breed individual animals artificially.

The Tibetan antelope, an endangered species at the top of China's protection list, is native to the grasslands in and around Qinghai Province, and the Xinjiang Uygur and Tibetan Autonomous Regions and normally lives in mountains at an altitude between 3,200 and 5,000 meters.

The animal is killed illegally to make shawls, called shahtoosh, worth about US$10,000 each on the world market, but at the high price of the lives of three to five Tibetan antelopes.

The number of these antelopes has dropped from several million a century ago to below 70,000 in the past two decades due to extensive poaching and damage to the animals' habitat in the wake of a gold rush.

Cega, director of the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve Management Bureau, said that the government had successfully cracked down on poaching and illegal deals.

Moreover, the provincial government rates the project as a key science research project and has provided a special fund of 1.8 million yuan (about US$217,000) for the undertaking.

The project is being jointly conducted by the Institute of Northwest Plateau Biology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the provincial forestry bureau and the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve Management Bureau.

(Xinhua News Agency November 19, 2002)

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