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Endangered species become hunter and hunted
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Between the hunter and the hunted, which should be protected first?

Chinese animal preservation experts are wrestling with that question as condors and spotted deer, both endangered species, have become an unanticipated food chain in a reserve in the northern province of Hebei, near Beijing.

More than 100 young deer have been eaten by condors this spring, Zhou Changhong, a senior administration officer at the Luanhe River National Nature Reserve, told a Xinhua reporter Thursday.

"The raptors are growing in number and threatening to catch larger animals, like elk, in the reserve."

The reserve, sprawling over 50,634 hectares at the headwaters of the Luanhe River, is home to more than 600 spotted deer and 10 elk that have been relocated from remote parts of Beijing.

Both are listed among China's most endangered animal species. But the predator, the condor, is on China's second-ranked preservation list.

"An adult condor has a wingspread of more than two meters, and not even wardens can frighten it," said Zhou, adding the administration could only organize more patrols in hopes of stopping condors that are swooping down on deer.

The reserve was founded by the provincial government in 2002 and later upgraded to a national nature reserve.

Species such as the mandarin duck, which long ago vanished from the region, have been sheltering at the reserve during their migrations since 2005.

Elk, a variety of deer with curved antlers, were once abundant in the north China region before being largely eliminated by flooding and war in the 19th century.

Zoologists have been able to rehabilitate the species, with herds totaling about 2,000 living in captivity on the outskirts of Beijing and in Jiangsu and Hubei provinces.

(Xinhua News Agency April 3, 2009)

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