|The scenic beauty of Hoh Xil in 1997|
The Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve in the Tibetan Plateau had witnessed the most momentous occasion early this year: the numbers of rare and endangered Tibetan antelopes rose to 200,000 individuals. But although this seemed like hopeful news for conservationists, it has recently been reported that a new would-be threat is now looming on the horizon: tourism. A Beijing-based brewing company called China Resources Snow Breweries had launched an adventure travel campaign that allows tourists to cross into the nature reserve. The campaign has raised concerns among environmentalists, with some saying the company is targeting commercial interest in the guise of environmental protection. One of them is Wu Zhu, an environment protection volunteer, who stated that participant recruitment was underway even though no route has been decided. Another one, Feng Yongfeng, one of the founders of Beijing's environmental protection organization Da'erwen, added that the company denied having a clear understanding of the reserves situation and ideas on how to protect its environment. According to Wang Rui of the company's marketing department, the purpose of the program is to reveal the reserve to the public as well as promoting their beer brand. She further added that a specific route is still in discussion, while the company will pick tourists who have a strong awareness about environment protection and not go to places forbidden by law.
This article, in my opinion, gives a clear representation of how tourism can be perceived as a threat to an ecosystem. A good example is seen in Africa, where Land Rovers stocked with tourists would circle around a small patch of land because an animal is present there. This type of behavior is very stressful to not just the animal itself, but the entire wildlife making its home in the ecosystem. But the case of the Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve is different. This wondrous, yet mysterious land had a rough history dating back to the 1980s during a gold rush. At that time, lakes were dug out and such activities continued to persist. Along with mining came hunting, which decimated the Tibetan antelope population from 200,000 to fewer than 20,000 animals. Since 1998, the numbers of these magnificent antelopes gradually began to increase. But now, with this plan of domestic tourism underway, the wildlife at Hoh Xil faces an uncertain future. I believe that, in order to protect the wildlife, the reserve staff should place strict restrictions on the flow of tourism and monitor to see which tourists are not abiding by the reserve's rules. As Mr. Zhu put it, the environment withstand outside disturbance.
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