Tibet’s biodiversity continues to recover: more than 200,000 Tibetan antelopes in the region

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).

Tibetan antelopes @Xinhuanet

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”.

All information comes from https://mp.weixin.qq.com/

Translated by Andrea Jia

Edited by Andrea Jia and Riley Peng @ Animal Dialogue

A rare black wolf was confirmed to exist in China for the first time

Recently, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) photographed a very rare female black wolf in Sanjiangyuan National Parkduring a water bird survey conducted with in the Yellow River Source Area. This is the first time that this species has been recorded in this area, confirming the existence of the black wolf in the wild in China.

The wolf had pure blackbodyand white edges on the lips, which was drastically different from the deep yellow and grey fur of the common grey wolf. Li, a survey member who photographed the black wolf, recalled that the black wolf was found on the Gobi Desert, where the surveyteamtracked the black wolf for more than 30 minutes. During this period, the black wolf attempted to hunt Tibetan gazelle and pika, and she eventually went farther into a dry river bed.

The black fur of the wolf is coded by a recessive gene, which is more common in wolves in North America, but very unusual in Asia. Scientists and front-line workers have occasionally heard accounts ofblack wolves from herdsmen, butthere is almost norecorded image data. Hence, the black wolf image taken this time is incredibly precious.

@Baoyu Wei from WWF China

Dr. John Mackinnon, a world-renowned biodiversity conservation scientist, confirmed that this was a black wolf after reviewing the images taken by the investigation team. According to Dr. Mackinnon, since the Sanjianyuan area is open and often covered by snow, wolves with the dominant trait of light-colored fur have better chances at survival, and the percentage of the recessive black-fur gene is very low within the wolf population. For a wolf to have black fur, both parents need to possess the recessive black-fur gene, which is an event of extremely low probability. Therefore, the rare occurrence of a black wolf may suggest the population in Sanjiangyuan is in very good shape in terms of reproduction. 

Dr. Jie Xie, an associate researcher at the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, also believes that this discovery is of great significance and substantial value to the study of wolves in China. She hopes this information can lead more scholars to conduct in-depth research on Chinese wolves, and she also hopes it will help increase the strength of protection from the public and relevant institutions.

All information and photos come from WWF China

Translated by Jiaxuan Han

Edited by Andrea Jia and Riley Peng @ Animal Dialogue

Parental behaviors of Chinese mountain cats were recorded in the Sanjiangyuan area

For the first time, parental behaviors of the Chinese mountain cat were recorded in the Sanjiangyuan area.

Recently, the childcare activities of the endemic Chinese mountain cat, Felis bieti, were recorded for the first time in a site near Tongtian River, Chengduo County, Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province.

The Chinese mountain cat is the national second-class protected animal in China. It is also one of only two unique carnivores found solely in China, the other one being the giant panda. At present, the Chinese Mountain Cat is seen only in Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu, and other regions. Due to the species’ elusive nature and limited range, records of their appearance have been minimal for many years. It was only 11 years ago in 2007 that the first photo of a Chinese mountain cat was captured in the wild. It is considered one of the most mysterious felids in the world.

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“From September 20, 2018, one of the infrared cameras deployed in the area of Chengduo County had been recording the breeding nest of a Chinese mountain cat, and it continuously captured the behavior of a Chinese mountain cat mother and two kittens.” Zhao Xiang, the program director of the ShanShui Conservation Center, said. “This survey recorded the activity of a Chinese mountain cat family. The two kittens were 2 to 3 months old, and their mother trained them to hunt preys and perform other skills everyday. Also, the footage was complete.”

The Chinese Mountain Cat is one of the top carnivores in the grassland. They mainly feed on rodents such as pikas and birds. The survey indicated that Chinese mountain cats prey on two plateau pikas every day. Therefore, protecting Chinese Mountain Cats is also very important for maintaining the integrity of the grassland ecosystem.

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“Because the Chinese mountain cat is only found in China, we need to play a more important role in its research and protection,” said Dr. Xiao Lingyun, a researcher at Peking University Nature Conservation and Social Development. He told reporters that currently, the academic community knows very little about their behavior, population status, and other information.

In the future, ShanShui Nature Conservation Center will further cooperate with county officials to conduct long-term evaluation surveys in the surrounding areas to determine the distribution of Chinese mountain cats in the region and threats to the population to implement targeted protection work.

All information and photos come from The China News: http://zdx.forestry.gov.cn/bhxh/640/20181015/000224143262767.html

Translator: Sherry Yao

First edits: Andrea Jia

Final edits: Riley Peng

@Animal Dialogue

The first public interest litigation on endangered animal conservation was held in Kunming, Yunnan

On August 28th, 2018, the very first public interest litigation on endangered animal conservation in China, the case on green peafowl habitat protection, was held in the Environmental Court of Kunming Intermediate People’s Court. The trial opened on the 28th. After three hours of court investigation and debate, the court announced the end of the trial. The sentence would be announced at a later date.

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A green peafowl in its habitat in Kunming, Yunnan @ Wei Zhang, Wild China

In July 2017, to prevent the construction of the Jiasa River-I hydropower station from destroying the last intact green peafowl habitat in China, Friends of Nature brought a lawsuit. The lawsuit demanded that the defendants, the China Hydropower Consulting Group Xinping Co. Ltd and China Power Construction Group Kunming Survey and Design Institute Co. Ltd, halt the construction of the hydropower station in the Jiasa River.

The focus of the case centered around whether the two defendants would cause large-scale destructions to the ecosystems in the inundated areas. The plaintiff, Friends of Nature, stated that the inundated area of the construction project was a habitat with the largest green peafowl population. The construction would result in substantial environmental damage to the critical habitat of green peafowls, and would very likely cause the green peafowls in the region to go extinct.

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@ Xiaosong Zhuang

The representatives from the defendants’ side questioned the professionalism of the plaintiff’s experts. They argued in court that, based on their environmental impact assessment, the construction would cause no considerable damage to the ecosystems and the species.

The construction project is located in a tropical rainforest, where the biodiversity would be tremendously damaged by the hydropower station.

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Currently, the two defendants are waiting for instructions from relevant government departments as to whether or not to resume the construction.

All information and photos come from Friends of Nature: http://www.fon.org.cn/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=13220:2018-08-30-02-37-33&Itemid=176

Translated by Dule and edited by Riley Peng @ Animal Dialogue