China / Society

Antelope habitat is Heritage contender

By Lin Shujuan (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-29 07:38

A field survey on the habitat of the Tibetan antelope in the Hoh Xil area of China's Qinghai province has started, another step toward its 2017 application as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

The team, consisting of more than 20 experts from various fields, will conduct extensive research on the area's natural resources, biodiversity, and geological and meteorological complexity, said Kang Xuelin, an official from the Qinghai Application for World Heritage office.

"Through the survey, we hope to understand the situation in the planned area for the application, and the heritage value of its natural resources, which will help designate the final area for the application," Kang said on Tuesday.

Located in the border area of the Tibet autonomous region at an average altitude of 4,600 meters, Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve, or Kekexili, is China's largest stretch of uninhabited land and has long been a paradise for wildlife. Covering about 45,000 square kilometers, it is home to more than 230 animal species, 20 of which are under State protection, including the wild yak and Tibetan antelope.

Designated as a national nature preserve in 1995, it was put on China's tentative World Heritage list in January.

Jia Yingzhong, director of Qinghai's Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said preparations likely would be completed in time for a vote of the World Heritage Committee in 2017.

"It couldn't be better, it's just like adding another layer of protection to the area," said Hashi Tashi-Dorjie, a Tibetan environmentalist based in Yushu.

In the later part of the last century, poachers targeted the Tibetan antelope because of the popularity of the shahtoosh, a shawl made with the animal's downy hair, in the United States and Europe. Antelope herds dwindled. Once numbering 200,000, the population dropped to 20,000 by 1997.

Tashi-Dorjie said he personally has witnessed an improvement in the preservation of the area over the last two decades.

According to data provided by the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve Administration Bureau, the antelope population has rebounded to at least 60,000.

"A heritage status will help guarantee such an approach," Tashi-Dorjie said.

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