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Bird-loving lama gets credit for wildlife protection
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Tashi Zumpo, a 39-year-old lama monk from Guolo Prefecture of Qinghai Province on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, probably never imagined that his love for the rare birds in his hometown would be made public nationwide.

The story of Tashi Zumpo, a 39-year-old bird-loving lama monk from Guolo Prefecture on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, is being exhibited at the National Zoological Museum in Beijing. [ScienceNet.cn]
The story of Tashi Zumpo, a 39-year-old bird-loving lama monk from Guolo Prefecture on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, is being exhibited at the National Zoological Museum in Beijing. [ScienceNet.cn]

Tashi's story, together with 89 others of ordinary people's quiet protection of extinguishing wild species, is being exhibited at the National Zoological Museum in Beijing, to be followed by exhibitions in several other cities.

The exhibition, which was opened Tuesday and is to last for 25 days, is part of the 23rd International Congress for Conservation Biology to be held in Beijing from Sunday to Thursday.

Tashi, now a doctor on Tibetan Buddhism in the Palyul Monastery's subsidiary temple, told Xinhua that he fell in love with birds 26 years ago when his impoverished parents sent him to the temple to become a lama.

"I was homesick and I felt so happy watching the birds," Tashi said, with a simple smile on his tanned face.

Since then, he has recorded the habits of nearly 400 species of birds, such as when and where to make nests or breed, by drawing pictures or jotting down notes.

He is also a loyal guardian to emberiza koslowi, a rarely seen species of bunting restricted to the eastern part of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.

In 2005, Tashi first saw an emberiza koslowi in the mountain behind his temple.

Since then, with funding from the EU-China Biodiversity Program, a project with EU funding in China for the country's protection of biodiversity, Tashi was able to protect the rare buntings by compensating the villagers in his hometown to share pasture with the birds in their breeding seasons.

Tashi Zumpo drew many pictures of birds. [Hinature.cn]
Tashi Zumpo drew many pictures of birds. [Hinature.cn]

In 2007, Tashi founded his own association with help from Shanshui Conservation Center, an NGO on nature protection. The association's 63 members are all volunteers, mostly locals, who share a passion for the protection of wildlife.

"The youngest member is only four years old, a local girl who I think has a talent for observing the birds," Tashi said.

Though almost none of them has a professional background, these bird fanciers are advancing the country's cause of wildlife protection by contributing basic information about the endangered species.

Sun Yuehua, a researcher of the Institute of Zoology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that about half of the more than 70 species of birds living in China only lack basic data about their living habits.

"We need more basic studies to fill this blank," Sun said. "The protection of wildlife need wide participation of people from different backgrounds, such as Tashi."

Lv Kunlin, a nine-year-old student in the Baijiazhuang Elementary School in Beijing, said that he learned more about rare species after reading the exhibited stories.

"I knew a lot about wildlife from books and TV," said the confident boy, "but I didn't know we can also study them if we want to."

The boy's aunt Lv Limin, a teacher at the Beijing Institute of Education, said, "The boys were so excited to come. I hope they can learn more about wildlife and become more aware of volunteer protection."

Xie Yan, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's China program, said that "community protection," or ordinary people's spontaneous protection of wildlife, plays a very important role in China's protection of wild species.

"We hope more people can join this team and become protectors," Xie said.

(Xinhua News Agency July 9, 2009)

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