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Tibetan antelope to be put forward as Olympic mascot
( 2003-09-12 16:49) (Agencies)

Chinese environmentalists are hoping to promote Tibetan antelope protection by recommending the endangered animal as the mascot for the 2008 Olympic Games to be held in Beijing.

The administration of the Hoh Xil Nature Preserve in northwest China's Qinghai province has submitted a report to the organizing committee of the 2008 Olympics, claiming that the Tibetan antelope can best represent the Olympic values and the quality and spirit of the Chinese people.

As a nimble animal on the cold Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the Tibetan antelope can symbolize the Games' athletic spirit of competition and perseverance, said Cega, administration director of the preserve.

The director also said that the gregarious, tough animal can also represent the aspiring and cooperative nature of Chinese people.

The administration has decided to launch a signing campaign in mid-October to show people's support and encouragement for the animal's bid for the mascot selection, which is to start next year.

Tibetan antelopes, which mainly live in three preserves above the altitude of 4,000 meters in Qinghai province, the Tibet Autonomous Region and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, saw a sharp decrease in population from millions at the beginning of the 20th century to 50,000 in 1997 because of poaching.

"We hope more and more people can learn about and care about Tibetan antelopes through the mascot bid," Cega said.

China established the Hoh Xil Nature Preserve in 1998 as an area where antelope poaching is strictly prohibited.

At the construction site of the ongoing Qinghai-Tibet Railway project, workers are ordered to stop construction when migrating antelopes passed the work site to give them free, undisturbed passage.

So far, the number of Tibetan antelopes in China has climbed to 80,000.

The protection of Tibetan antelopes not only involves the efforts of Chinese people and their government, but also needs the care of the international community, Cega said.

As the illegal trade of Tibetan antelope fur still exists, Cega said, there are still tough challenges to be faced in the protection of the animal.

"So we hope it can win the selection and then it can gain more concern from people all over the world," Cega said.

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