"The number of wild animals is increasing and each day I now see more animals than people," said Danbaciren, a herdsman in Ker County, part of the Ali area of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Currently the endangered animals under state first level protection number more than 150,000, twice as many as the area's human population.
Ali is the most remote area dominated by animal husbandry in Tibet. The 340,000 square km area has seven counties under its jurisdiction, with a population of more than 70,000. It is located in the frigid zone at an average elevation of 4,500 meters. Here, there are more than 40 kinds of wild animals under state first and second level protection thanks to its vast grasslands and rich water resources.
Hunting has been part of the nomadic life of local herders since ancient times. But the number of wild animal species began to drop from the early 1980s, with Tibetan antelopes and wild kiangs in danger of extinction.
To protect the endangered plateau animals, China established the state-level Qiangtang Nature Reserve covering almost all the Ali area. Relevant departments help herders to solve difficulties in their daily lives while taking away their shotguns. Workers from the nature reserve propagate the rules and regulations on wildlife protection among local people and have won popular support.
"In about five years, the number of Tibetan antelopes, wild kiangs, wild yaks and bar-headed geese under state first level protection has exceeded the human population of the Ali Area," said Danda, an official in charge of wildlife protection of the Ali Forestry Bureau. "Actually, the period also witnessed the fastest population growth ever," he added.
The number of Tibetan antelopes in Ali has returned to a level of more than 30,000 from less than 10,000. To protect Tibetan antelopes, herders in Gaize and Xianqian counties have given up large areas of pasture to make room for wild animals since 2002. During the five-month mating and lambing period each year, police conduct all-weather patrols in the nature reserve.
Forty-five-year-old Danda remembered that, when he was young, he saw little Tibetan wild kiangs in the grassland near his hometown. Nowadays, there are more than 10,000 such animals in Gaize. The number of Tibetan wild kiangs in Ali has exceeded 60,000, the number of wild yaks reached nearly 30,000 and the number of extremely rare golden yaks stands at nearly 100.
"Hunting and killing still happen, but they are done by wolves and bears," said Danda. Now, the number of brown bears in Ali exceeds 700 and that of wolves 3,000. "The food chain of the whole grassland has been improved," said Danda.
(China.org.cn translated by Li Jingrong November 14, 2003)