Tibet steps up efforts to protect leopards

Updated: 2014-05-20 04:31

By Hu Yongqi and Palden Nyima in Lhasa (China Daily)

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Tibet steps up efforts to protect leopards 

This snow leopard in Ngari prefecture, the Tibet autonomous region, was subdued in April after it attacked a local herdsman's flock of sheep. It was later set free. The number of snow leopards has sharply risen in recent years. Sampa Tsering / China News Service 

A protection center for snow leopards has been set up in the Qomolangma National Nature Preserve in the Tibet autonomous region, authorities said.

A project by the Qomolangma National Nature Preserve Administration and the Vanke Public Welfare Foundation, the center aims to integrate resources for the protection of snow leopards.

"It is essential to observe and survey the snow leopards to clarify their current living conditions, and it is necessary to call on human beings to treasure the endangered species," said Buchung, deputy director of the administration.

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, covering most of the Tibet autonomous region, is a major home for the leopards, which are symbolic in the region.

In a bid to protect the plateau's ecological system, the Qomolangma nature preserve was upgraded to a national nature reserve in 1994.

The establishment of the center means that increasing efforts will be made to safeguard snow leopards.

In addition, it will help to harmonize the relationship between wild animals and human beings at a time when fast economic growth could jeopardize the animals' natural habitat, Buchung said.

Buchung added that the population of snow leopards is increasing in recent years thanks to great efforts by governments and other organizations to protect the species.

A 15-member team at the protection center has been set up to monitor the habitat and the regular activities of snow leopards around the Qomolangma nature preserve zone.

The 20-day preliminary survey has a budget of more than 800,000 yuan ($128,000) and will start this week, he said.

Investigators will mainly use infrared cameras to trace the animals and will talk with local residents as much as possible, he said.

The number of snow leopards has seen a sharp increase in the past 20 years, which has unfortunately also resulted in local residents reporting more than 40 cases of snow leopards attacking livestock in 2012, he said.

Some residents and nature preserve workers said that the animals are occasionally a threat to animals of herders but that it is very rare for snow leopards to attack people, according to the administration.

"It is estimated that the Vanke Public Welfare Foundation plans to invest more than 3 million yuan in the next three years to accelerate research and protection in the region," Buchung said.

The nature preserve administration added that it will hire more employees and organize a team of experts specializing in snow leopard research and protection to formulate specific measures to protect the animals.

Contact the writers at huyongqi@chinadaily.com.cn and palden_nyima@chinadaily.com.cn