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A fight for survival in Jilin
( 2003-10-28 09:35) (China Daily)

Zhang Meiquan, a farmer at the foot of the Changbai Mountains, has decided to harvest his corn earlier than usual this year to avoid further losses from rampant wild animals.

"I can't wait any longer or there will be nothing left, even though the corn is not ripe enough," Zhang says helplessly. "But it is prohibited to hurt or hunt the wild animals up the mountain."

Seven years after Northeast China's Jilin Province banned hunting, the population of wild animals has increased and the ecology become more balanced.

But it means the number of incidents involving animals pilfering from farmers around the Changbai Mountains has increased.

As harvesting season approaches, the fate of animals versus the destiny of farmers is sparking hot debate among local circles.

"They (wild boars) usually start destroying the crops of ripe corn in September and hang around until the final harvest. Last year, I was only able to pick a bag of corn in my 0.3-hectare plot of land," said Dong Chengli in Xin An, a remote town in the range of the mountains.

However, an official from the local forestry department takes a different view.

"Wild animals only get into framers' crops because they struggle to find food in the mountains in winter," said Jiang Jinsong from the Wild Animal Protection Bureau of the Jilin Forestry Department. "And they usually don't attack humans unless they are provoked."

According to the Law on the Protection of Wildlife, which was adopted in China in 1989, people who suffer losses or injury from wild animals under State and local government protection can apply for compensation from wildlife protection departments.

But Jiang said only the farmland that is officially under protection can be taken into consideration for compensation. Forests being used to grow crops are not included under the law and should be returned to their natural state.

He said the local administrative department is drafting regulations to further deal with the issue.

Boasting fertile, black soil, forests and pastures, Jilin has 2,700 wild plant species and 1,100 wild animal species, some of which are rare and endangered.

As one of the provinces leading China in building a better ecological environment, Jilin has had anti-poaching polices in place since 1996.

About 460 poaching cases involving 3,000 wild birds and animals were investigated last year, according to Zhang Lufeng, deputy director of the provincial forestry department.

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