Human-animal tensions escalate in Qinghai

By Chen Boyuan
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 25, 2014
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Herdsmen in Yushu, in northwest China's Qinghai Province, have had a difficult time recently getting along with wild animals living in the same area, in part because the shortage of natural food has made them turn against the local people.

Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve, the world's biggest nature sanctuary, lies in the south of Qinghai Province. [File photo]

The frequent bear attacks on villagers in recent years, along with their livestock and houses, are among the worst troubles faced by animal rights activists.

"We fear bears the most," said Niga, a 44-year-old local man. He said that in the past, bears, mostly Tibetan blue bears, only targeted men and animals, but now houses are under threat.

A grass-root Party official in Zhaqing Village in Yushu's Zaduo County, Niga said statistics show that the people living in Zhaqing have been victimized by bears and have suffered losses to different degrees.

He said that a villager told him the other day that a bear attacked that man's house again, ruining all the food and furniture inside. What puzzled them was that the bear even managed to find the flour, butter and honey in the house, and that the animal, after eating its fill, even messed up the rest of the food.

Some bears did behave well. "One bear broke into a house, ate some of the food there, and left without causing any damage," said Zhao Xiang, who has spent two years in Qinghai working for the Beijing-based Shanshui Conservation Center. But in all other accounts, bears seemed destructive, always taking the food and smashing the furniture.

An extreme incident took place in the jurisdiction of Tongtian River Conservation Center in April of last year, when a bear killed a woman who blundered into its lair. In revenge, her family members killed three bears afterwards, said Zhaxi Wensha, who works at a conservation center.

"What do you think we could do? Arrest them? Maybe not," said Zhaxi, noting that Tibetan blue bears are under national protection and killing them would be a criminal offence.

There are no official statistics showing how many Tibetan blue bears are living in Zaduo, whether the population is expanding or shrinking, or whether there have been any recent changes to their food chain.

But the intensifying conflicts between the people and the bears did not simply happen because of the multiplicity of the animal species.

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