Friday, May 13, 2011

Anti-Poaching Efforts to Protect Tibetan Antelopes Announced

Tibetan antelope in its natural habitat

It has been recently reported that four nature reserves covering 550,000 square kilometers of western China will be joining forces together to protect highly endangered Tibetan antelopes through anti-poaching operations. The operations are scheduled to start in late May. According to Tseta, party chief of the Hoh Xil National Reserve Administration, the operations are expected to last for one to three months and will be an annual routine. He further added that it will be the first time the four reserves reserves will be working together and is the largest protection campaign since Hoh Xil's establishment in the 1990s. The campaign was an outcome of a meeting held last September in Xining, which concluded with an agreement on joint protection of the antelopes.

Ever since the Tibetan antelope gained its status as an endangered species in 1979, poachers continuously went after it driven by the smell of profits from its pelt. In 1994, a man named Sonam Dargye was killed while protecting these graceful creatures in Hoh Xil. Two years later, a protection program was set up and in 1997, it was established as a nature reserve. Since then, more than 400 patrols had been carried out in which over 3,500 people patrolled one million kilometers to protect the antelopes. Tseta stated that while illegal poaching has not been reported in the past five years, new problems came to the reserves which forced them to unite. Shira, director of Changtang Nature Reserve's Forest Public Security Bureau stated that poachers have started hiring local herdsmen to help them in hunting the animals. He further added saying the area is too broad and barely populated, which gave poachers a greater chance in succeeding and brought difficulties to the authorities. Luo Yanhai, the director of Hoh Xil Administration's Forest Public Security Bureau who had ten years' experience on patrol, said that even though the antelopes migrate across the four reserves, no law can be imposed across the border. This is why a new system of joint patrolling will be established. This new system's key aspects are information sharing and cross-zone manhunts, which will be carried out annually. The four reserve administrations will report information and work results to each other every three months, which will give them more power.

I'm very happy and proud to see what strategies the administrations from all four nature reserves came up with to protect the current populations of the Tibetan antelopes. Statistics have shown that the population of these magnificent creatures rose from 60,000 to 120,000 in the Changtang Reserve, those in Hoh Xil grew from 20,000 to 70,000 animals. While it appears the overall antelope population is healthy, the threat of poaching still looms over the horizon. And Shira of the Changtang Reserve pointed it out that local herdsmen are secretly helping the poachers by doing small-scale hunting. I believe that the best solution to tackle this problem would be to educate the locals about the importance of the Tibetan antelope, and encourage them to collaborate with the authorities in reducing any further poaching on these reserves. This will help the global population of the Tibetan antelope to flourish further in good numbers.

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