On April 16, the exhibition center of the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg hosted a Chinese wildlife photo exhibit named “Nature Image China”, a second show after the first exhibit in Moscow. This exhibit aroused the Russian public’s interest in Chinese wild animals, as well as China’s recent achievements in wildlife conservation.
Mrs. Tamara, the Russian director of the exhibition, said at the opening ceremony, “Nowadays, the only way to address the issue of wildlife protection is to cooperate with the neighbor country. This is why we think it is vital to showcase the activities of the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) and the best works of Chinese photographers. Though this exhibit, visitors can get to know China—a lush and natural land full of wonder, they can know the life of the nation’s rarest wild animals, and learn about the scientific research and conservation work on the wild animals in China.”
Many Russian media reported the opening ceremony. The CWCA’s mission is to protect rare animals such as panda, golden monkey, South China tiger, Amur tiger, Crested Ibis and Baiji, most of which are close to extinction.
The CWCA regularly invites famous photographers both from China and aboard to take photos of the ecosystem and organisms in China. The images will be displayed with the title of “Nature Image China” and added to the CWCA’s other project, the China Natural Image Library.
Organized by the committee of the “Primitive Russia” Festival and the CWCA, this exhibition shows the works of 49 photographers from China and other countries. The exhibit is on view from April 16 to May 28.
On the 50th Earth Day, the Shanghai Zoo opened a “Local Animal Park”. The animal inhabitants of the park include endangered and protected species such as otters, Chinese water deers, leopard cats, South China tigers, and Oriental storks. At the same time, local representative species such as hog badger, European badger, raccoon dogs, and mallards also live in the park.
An Area of More Than 320,000 Square Feet Produces a “Home” Environment
The Shanghai Zoo Local Animal Park began construction in August 2017. After the completion, the total area of the park is more than 320,000 square feet.
In the past, tourists always paid more attention to star animals such as pandas, lions, golden monkeys and so on. However, they don’t know much about the animals that live around the city. Shanghai is a city built on wetlands with abundant natural resources that support nearly 90% of the wildlife species in the Yangtze River Delta Area. “We define ‘local animals’ as wildlife that live in or near Shanghai, or animals that have historically been distributed but are now disappearing,” said a zoo official.
The Local Animal Park of Shanghai Zoo is the first exhibition in China with the title of “local animals”. It features the natural environment of Shanghai wetland and hilly forests. The park strives to simulate nature so that the animals can express natural behaviors.
The entire bird area is composed of wetland landscapes such as lakes, shoals, streams, and small islands. Such an environment not only helps show the natural behavior of birds but also attracts many local wild birds to enrich the ecosystem. In the area for the Chinese water deer and Reeves’s muntjac, the slopes, lawns, and bushes are large enough to meet the deers’ needs to hide and run. The small animal exhibition areas for raccoon dogs, European badgers, and hog badgers present their preferred living environment with shrubs and ponds, supplemented by various tree holes and caves.
“Artificial” Food Chain Enhances Animal Welfare
There are many aquatic plants, small fish, snails, and tadpoles in the wetland environment of the bird area. The zoo also built an “insect hotel” on the island with eco-friendly materials. The staff placed straw, dry branches, dead bark, and other materials in discarded wooden boxes to attract different insects. These insects and some aquatic plants also become food for the cranes. Meanwhile, the zookeeper will also occasionally put some mealworms and crickets on the island to let the cranes catch by themselves.
Attentive visitors will find tree branches of various shapes and sizes in the exhibition area. “They restore the living environment of animals in the wild and provide the animals with entertainment.” the staff revealed.
As people’s attention to the environment and the protection of ecosystems increases, a growing number of people recognize the importance of protecting the habitats of humans and animals. The Shanghai Zoo said that the zoo has been striving to change from a traditional zoo to a modern zoo for a long time. The missions of the zoo are to conduct wildlife science research, comprehensive environmental protection, popular science education, and advocation of ecological protection. The establishment of Local Animal Park is a major practice.
The year 2019 is the “Year of Justifications for Pangolins” for the Pangolin Protection Working Group of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF). Recently, after years of hard work, the Pangolin Group was entrusted by the relevant authorities to rescue and treat some of the pangolins that had been seized by the customs.
The pangolin is currently the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. To protect the pangolins, the Pangolin Group has been putting considerable effort into pangolin conservation for years.
The Pangolin Group aims to tackle illegal pangolin trafficking from multiple angles such as the frontline investigations of pangolin trafficking, requests for customs information disclosure, investigations of the medicinal use of pangolin products, illegal pangolin trade rescue operations, popularization of the science of pangolins, and speaking up about the issue on international platforms.
Due to some ancient misconceptions, China still has a substantial demand for pangolin products for both edible and medicinal purposes. In the early 1990s, pangolins native to China were hunted so much that the local pangolin population could no longer support the commercial demand. Since then, enormous numbers of pangolins and their products from Southeast Asia, South Asia, and even Africa have entered the Chinese market. According to a recent customs operation on March 29th this year, 103 live pangolins, 52 dead bodies, and 21.55 kilograms of scales were seized. The live pangolins would be in a worrying situation if they did not receive the care they needed on time.
For the emergency pangolin rescue operations, the Pangolin Group has sent staff to two regions, Guangxi and Yunnan, to select appropriate locations and establish rescue camps. At the same time, the staff has been actively communicating with both domestic and foreign experts to prepare for the rescue. Meanwhile, the Pangolin Group has also recruited on-site rescue volunteers and gathered information from the internet for potential locations for the camps. According to the leader of the Pangolin Group, appropriate camp locations must have necessary facilities, relatively convenient transportation, and forests with high numbers of termites nearby.
As of April 11, the Pangolin Group had found a suitable rescue camp location somewhere around Nanning City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The camp encloses a large forest and is only 3 kilometers away from an airport. Currently, the camp has been named the Nn041119PRC base. From now on, the Pangolin Group will be working vigorously to establish the second and the third rescue camp.
On March 27th, the Chinese State Council Information Office published a white paper document titled “Democratic Reform in Tibet — Sixty Years On”, which reported that Tibet’s biodiversity has been recovering continuously. In the Tibet region, the forest coverage rate has reached 12.14%, the Tibetan antelope population has increased from 60,000 in the 1990s to 200,000 at present, and the Tibetan wild donkey population has grown from 50,000 to more than 80,000.
According to the white paper, since the establishment of the first Qomolangma Nature Reserve in 1988 (Qomolangma is Tibetan for “Mount Everest”), Tibet has established 47 various nature reserves. The total reserve area has reached 412,200 square kilometers, accounting for more than 34.35% of the total land area of China. Meanwhile, there are also 22 eco-protection areas, 36 counties receiving government transfer payments for their essential ecological roles, four national scenic areas, nine national forest parks, 22 national wetland parks, and three national geoparks.
The Chinese government continues to increase the eco-compensation for Tibet’s expenses for preserving the eco-environment and the consequent losses of development opportunities. Since 2001, the amount of compensation for various ecological benefits such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, and key ecological reserves has reached 31.6 billion yuan (approximately 4.7 billion USD).
The white paper claims that at present, the forest coverage rate in Tibet is 12.14%, with an area of 16.02 million hectares (including forest land, shrubbery land, and other forest lands) and a forest stock volume of 2.28 billion cubic meters. The comprehensive vegetation coverage of natural grassland is currently 45.9 percent, the area of natural grassland is 88.93 million ha, and the area of wetland is 6.53 million ha.
The Tibet autonomous region is home to 141 wild animal species protected at the national or regional level and 38 wild plant species protected at the national level. The region also supports plenty of endemic species found nowhere else in the world. There are 196 unique animal species, 855 unique plant species, and 22 unique bird species. Tibet’s ecosystem has been excellently preserved, the white paper said. Specifically, the number of black-necked cranes has grown from 3,000 to 8,000, and wild yaks from 7,000 to 10,000.
Currently, all the major rivers and lakes in Tibet remain in their natural state, and 95.7% of key waters have reached the national water standards. In terms of air quality, 97.5% of days are rated as “excellent” or “good”, and ratings of air quality in the Qomolangma region are being maintained at either “excellent” or “good”.
Spring sees a large number of migratory birds gathering and flying north as well as a significant increase in crimes such as wild bird hunts and consumption. As the birds’ migration starts in China, it is a crucial time to combat wild-bird-related criminal activities. On March 14, China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration held a teleconference which reported the status quo of bird migration and developed a detailed action plan to enhance the protection of migratory birds and fight bird-related crimes such as poaching, smuggling, and illegal trade.
Chunliang Li, the deputy director of National Forestry and Grassland Administration, demanded that local authorities fight crimes systematically by regulating the source, distribution, and market of wild-bird-related illegal activity.
To reinforce the protection of the source of wild birds, local Forestry and Grassland Administration should intensify the patrol for main distribution areas of migratory birds and eliminate illegal hunting tools such as net and poison to prevent migratory-bird mortality from human interference.
Meanwhile, the management of birdwatching activity must be standardized. The public should be educated on healthy ways of birdwatching and bird photography. Any birdwatching activity in nature reserves without permission should be forbidden. In the core zone and buffer zone of nature reserves, no birdwatching or drone photography is allowed except for specific scientific research purposes. Chasing and catching birds to conduct “studio shots” are strictly banned in order not to disturb the normal activities of the birds.
Li encourages exploring applications of technology that improve the efficiency and frequency of patrol and surveillance, especially in areas with dense bird distribution and regions with poor conditions. At the same time, efforts should be made to eliminate blind spots. By doing so, they may provide evidence to help solve cases and punish criminal activities in a swift manner.
Li emphasized that every tier of the Administration should collaborate with related departments to strengthen the supervision on circulation and marketing in order to strike the illegal trade of migratory birds. Li also called a thorough cleansing of all artificial breeding sites of wild birds to prevent these spots from becoming processing plants, transfer stations or shelters of illegal wildlife trade.
Lastly, to totally cut off the interest chain of poaching, illegal trade, and smuggling, law enforcement effort must be improved in commercial businesses such as restaurants, bird-and-flower markets, raw material distribution centers, ports, and trade routes with a high rate of smuggling.
As e-commerce, express shipping, and social media have recently become new tools of illegal wildlife trade, Li also required subordinates to enhance surveillance of these platforms and to put relevant laws into practice.
In the Blue Ocean Conservation and Rescue Center, Li’an Port, Lingshui Li Autonomous County, Hainan Province, a huge hawksbill turtle is crawling slowly on the floor. A young woman in a white coat and a surgical mask, follows closely behind it, applying a healing salve to its broken shell. Her name is Yong Zheng, and she is the attending doctor of this special “patient.”
Established in February 2018 with an investment of 40 million RMB (roughly 6 million USD) by the Hainan R&F Properties, the Blue Ocean Conservation and Rescue Center was the first fully-functional marine animal hospital in Hainan. The Center has two functional areas: the quarantine area and the veterinary hospital which was called “state-of-the-art” because of its complete equipment and advanced technology. So far, the Center has rescued and released dozens of marine animals such as hawksbill turtles, green turtles, and horseshoe crabs.
“An unfortunate encounter with a whale contributed to the establishment of the center.” Yang Chunlei, the Center’s manager, recalled with emotion. In 2016, a pilot whale was stranded on the beach. Despite more than 20 hours of continuous rescue, the whale died of respiratory failure. “If we had more local professional treatment areas and equipment, the tragedy might be avoided.”
The “attending doctor”, Yong, has a master’s degree in animal ecology and traveled to Taiwan and Hong Kong to learn about marine animal rescue.
Yong applied Vaseline to the hawksbill turtle’s shell to protect the affected area from water. Then, the nurse brought her a thin green turtle. “It was sent to us by local fishermen five months ago. I don’t know how many days and nights it spent trapped in the fishing net. When it first came, it weighed less than 7 kilograms.” Said Yong while gently inserting a homemade feeder into the throat of the green turtle. She started feeding it with fresh minced fish.
“It was lucky to have made it, and now it has grown to 9 kilograms.” Yong stroked the turtle like a doting parent. The turtle was all skins and bones when it arrived, and the staff could not even find its blood vessels. However, it still placed its forelimbs on the pool to receive injections. Its desire for life inspired people to help it return to the sea.
“The Center is setting up a conservation fund to do population surveys of local wild animals and public education. The center will become an advocate for more public participation in the conservation and rescue work of marine animals.” Yang Chunlei said.
On March 6, the first anniversary of the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online (referred to as “the Coalition”), the director of the State Forestry and Grassland Administration of China, Wu Zhimin, stated that the issue of online trafficking of endangered species has become a common challenge faced by countries around the world, and internet enterprises will play a more prominent role in the protection of endangered species.
“The Coalition has used technology to establish a network to strike online illegal wildlife trade. They have used responsibility, technology and innovation to eliminate hiding places for wildlife smugglers.” IFAW Asia Representative, Ge Rui, said.
On the day of the anniversary, eight internet companies including Sina Weibo, Yachang Art Network, Sogou Search, Hantang Collection Network, China Antiques Network, Turtle Friends, Kupatana from Tanzania and Sapo from Vietnam announced to join the Coalition.
On March 7th, 2018, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC), along with 21 internet companies, established the Coalition in San Francisco, USA. The Coalition aims to create a new internet environment where illegal wildlife smugglers have no place to escape.
Since the establishment of the Coalition, member companies have been actively promoting enforcement of legislation, exploring the application of new technologies to filter and remove illegal information, and raising users’ awareness of protecting wildlife against illegal trade.
In the past year, Chinese internet companies deleted and blocked at least one million pieces of illegal wildlife advertisements and trading information. A considerable number of unlawful accounts were removed, and the time-efficiency of investigating reported information increased significantly. For example, Tecent’s security department handed over reported evidence to the local law enforcement which later destroyed a gang of over 200.
The founder and the CEO of Beijing Wenwan Tianxia Co., Ltd., Chi Rui, said that as one of the earliest companies to join the Coalition, the staff have been threatened and personally attacked while blocking illegal wildlife trade information. The company believes that they should not only delete accounts and block information but also help people find better replacements of wildlife products.
“Carving is part of the traditional culture of China. And some fruit cores can replace ivory and rhino horns. Seeking better alternatives is part of our next step forward.” Chi Rui said.
An ecological conservator, Pema, of China’s Three-River-Source National Park recently became an internet sensation in China. Photos show Pema, aged 54, crossing a freezing river with a basket of fodder grass on his back to feed the white-lipped deer and bharal (Himalayan blue sheep) on the opposite bank.
Pema’s village lies in an area with the highest degree of biodiversity on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Dzato County of the Qinghai Yushu Prefecture. In the past few weeks, several counties near this area have been struck by a blizzard. Due to the snow coverage and persisting cold weather, the wild animals in Yushu are facing the plight of food shortage. Hundreds of wild animals have been found dead.
According to the ecological conservation manager of the Three-River-Source National Park, an investigation was launched in Zaduo County to check the condition of wild animals. The manager indicated that the animals either froze or starved to death and disease has been ruled out as a cause.
To save wild
animals, the government has appropriated 300,000 yuan (approximately $44,800 USD)
as a special fund for the protection of wildlife. The fund is mainly used to
transport about five tons of stored grass fodder along a 40-kilometer range
daily to feed animals. More than 80 conservation workers like Pema are taking
part in this rescue mission of the wild animals.
animals are the fairies of Three-River-Source National Park. It’s my sworn duty
to protect them,” said Pema.
“The darkness of disaster highlights the brightness of human’s love. Many local herders also have sheltered injured or starved animals. The government and the people are working together to ameliorate the wildlife casualties,” said the vice manager of the Lancang-River Area of the Three-River-Source National Park.
China’s environmental groups have adopted March 1 as the International Seal Day. Like many international animal advocate groups, Chinese animal protection organizations are opposed to the commercial seal hunt in Canada.
Canada’s Commercial Seal Hunt Controversy
Canadian law prohibits people from interfering with the natural ecology of marine mammals such as seals. At the same time, however, the Canadian government has also approved the annual commercial killing of hundreds of thousands of seals, explicitly prohibiting the hunting of small seals with white fur and less than 12 days old.
People who support the commercial seal hunt say that the seals that Canadians mainly hunt are not endangered species, and the overproduction of seals may impact the ecosystem: if seals eat a lot of cod, the Canadian fishermen will lose cod resources. They stress that though seal hunting scenes tend to be bloody, Canadian seal hunting follows the highest standards of slaughter and fully satisfies the protection of animal welfare. They denied the existence of “live stripping seals” and “killing seal pups” accused by animal protectionists.
The voice against the commercial seal hunt is louder on a global scale. Animal advocates claim that 95% of the hunted seals were less than three months old because the seals are poor at swimming and foraging and reluctant to leave the ice, so they are more likely to be killed. Oceanographers who oppose the commercial killing of seals say that the reduction of Atlantic cod is associated with increased human fishing and has nothing to do with seals.
With the efforts of animal protectionists, 35 countries have
banned commercial seal trade. Since the 1970s, more than 30 countries and
regions including the United States, Mexico, Croatia, and the European Union
have banned the import of seal products and the consumption and trade of seal
fur. Because of consumer resistance, North American seal products are also
rare. However, in some Asian markets, seal products are still selling well.
China, Hong Kong and Taiwan Market
In 2011, news that the Federal Fisheries Department of
Canada announced a new trade agreement so that China would start to import
Canadian seal meat in the hopes that the Chinese market will compensate for the
EU’s ban on the importation of seal meat.
In addition to China’s large market, Canada’s commercial seal industry also strives to lobby Asian countries and regions such as Hong Kong and Taiwan to import seal products.
However, under the resolute opposition of animal protection organizations from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and around the world, China does not seem to agree to open the world’s largest food and consumer goods market. The Chinese customs also imposed strict restrictions on seal products, but a trade ban has not been officially implemented. Hong Kong and Taiwan have also restricted the market for seal products from the government to consumers.
From August 2018 to January 2019, the Tianshan Eastern Forest Administration of Xinjiang province collaborated with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Snow Leopard Protection Project to carry out a four-month winter snow leopard survey in the eastern Wusu administration area. The investigation has brought some great news.
The Eastern Wusu Branch is in the middle of the northern slope of the Tianshan Mountains, covering 150 kilometers from east to west and 10 kilometers from north to south. It is one of the largest government-owned forests in the Tianshan Mountains.
Since the WWF Snow Leopard Project started in the Eastern Tianshan Mountains in August 2018, a series of training programs and field practices in Wusu have been conducted, and a team of Wusu ecological management inspectors has been assembled. A total of 60 infrared camera traps were set up near traces of snow leopard activities (marking, footprints, scat), covering an area of 550 km2, almost 10 times the size of Manhattan.
During the winter field survey, the staff found multiple fresh snow leopard footprints, scrapings, and feces. A total of 417 photos and videos were successfully captured by the 25 retrieved infrared cameras, yielding a capture rate of over 80%. It has been fully confirmed that the Wusu forest area is an extremely important snow leopard habitat in the Tianshan Mountains.
The staff has also witnessed the activities of other animals in the wild, which played an important role in establishing the local Biodiversity Database. The ecosystem in this region shows a typical change in vegetation with increasing altitude. The constantly changing vegetations form many transition zones, contributing to the high level of biodiversity in the region.
It is worth noting that infrared cameras have also captured snow leopards in low-altitude forest areas, yet most scientists believe that snow leopards only inhabit mountain loess (fine-grained clay or silt), meadows, and sparse woodlands. This discovery is of great importance since it shows that snow leopards have strong adaptability in the Tianshan Mountains, Xinjiang.