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Antelopes Find A Safe Haven at World's Roof
A herd of Tibetan antelopes, their horns reflecting the glow of the golden sunset in the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve on the "roof of the world," leisurely passes through the recently built wildlife protection tunnel of the Qinghai-Tibet railway.

The Tibetan antelope is an endangered species at the top of the country's protection list. Native to the grasslands of the Qinghai Province, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the northwest, and the Tibet Autonomous Region, they will no longer be faced with the Qinghai-Tibet Railway as an obstacle to migration.

Each June, the female antelopes migrate north to give birth along the banks of the Zhuonai and Taiyang lakes in northwestern China. They then make the return trip with their babies a couple of months later.

Shi Jiaming, an engineer in charge of the Qinghai-Tibet railway construction, said: "We found about 300 Tibetan antelopes wandering in the grassland near the Qinghai-Tibet railway on the afternoon of June 10. "These antelopes must migrate to Taiyang lake to give birth."

Upon viewing the antelopes, the railway construction headquarters decided to suspend construction work and to send people to warn vehicles against honking and speeding along the Qinghai-Tibet railway.

"We then decided to hide in the room to observe the antelopes. They moved toward the Qinghai-Tibet railway as the construction site fell silent. Under the sunset, they walked in groups of two or three," Shi said.

"At about 8 o'clock in the evening, a few of the bolder antelopes passed through the wildlife protection tunnel and moved leisurely toward Taiyang Lake," Shi said, adding that the other antelopes followed suit. The entire migration was completed within one hour that day.

Li Qingguang, a worker at the Qinghai-Tibet construction site, said that from that day on, the workers observed Tibetan antelopes passing through the wildlife tunnel every day at sunset.

Since the construction of the wildlife tunnel, over 2,000 Tibetan antelopes have passed through it.

Construction of the Golmud-Lhasa section of the 1,140-kilometer Qinghai-Tibet railway began in June 2001. The eco-environment along the railway is very fragile, and some overseas journalists expressed concern at the time about the potential threat to wildlife in the area.

"The safe passage of the Tibetan antelope through the wildlife tunnel is proof of the effectiveness of the scientific design of the Qinghai-Tibet railway," said Lu Chunfang, general director of the railway construction headquarters.

The Tibetan antelope, an extremely rare species found only in China, is targeted by poachers for use in making shawls that sell for up to US$11,000. Their rampant killing has led to a drastic decline in their numbers, from tens of thousands in the early last century, to only 70,000 at present. The Tibetan antelope is listed on the "Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species" as a protected species.

China has already taken a series of measures to protect Tibetan antelope and has established the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve especially for antelope protection.

(eastday.com June 19, 2003)

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