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Creating a habitat where tourists roam freely

Dong Jidong/Liu Mingtai
Updated: Apr 24,2015 9:57 AM     China Daily

Jilin province is home to more than 3,500 white cranes.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Province is hopeful that rise in numbers of Siberian tigers and white cranes will attract more visitors, Dong Jidong and Liu Mingtai report from Changchun.

Wildlife protection in Jilin province made the headlines when President Xi Jinping heard a report that there are 27 Siberian tigers and more than 3,500 white cranes there.

A Jilin delegation passed on the good news during the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference on March 9.

Indeed, a survey conducted by experts from the United States, Russia and China in 1998 had estimated there were only six such tigers in the Changbai Mountain area.

“Ecological resources are Jilin’s most valuable asset,” said Bayinchaolu, Party chief of Jilin. “Jilin boasts billowing fields of yellow crops, black soil, blue sky and green forest.

“The province should be proud of its rich ecological resources and wildlife resources and turn the resources to its own advantage.”

Lan Hongliang, head of the provincial forestry department, said: “The province will further push forward its efforts in ecological preservation and support sustainable economic and social development.

“The province imposed a ban on commercial tree-felling in State-owned forest regions this month to preserve the habitat for endangered animals, including Siberian tigers and Amur leopards.”

Lan added, “Jilin banned hunting in 1996. The province will build at least three new nature reserves for Siberian tigers and crack down on poaching.”

The Chagan Lake Wetland Reserve provides a habitat for wild birds.[Photo provided to China Daily]

The province has five national nature reserves for big cats-Hunchun, Yanminghu, Huangnihe, Wangqing and Weihuling.

However, poaching is rooted in people’s lack of awareness of the law and ecology, said Xie Zhongyan, director of the Changbai Mountain National Nature Reserve Administrative Committee.

“The Changbai reserve has zero tolerance for poaching and will severely punish poachers according to the law,” Xie said.

Jilin has built 41 national, provincial and city-level nature reserves that cover 2.58 million hectares, or 13.76 percent of the province’s territory.

As a result, the number of Siberian tigers and Amur leopards, the most endangered big cats in the world, has increased in recent years. There are at least 42 Amur leopards in the province, compared to three in 1998, experts estimate.

The Momoge National Nature Reserve witnessed a record high of 3,809 white cranes in 2012, accounting for more than 90 percent of the species in the world.

The number of other species, including Siberian musk deer, sika deer, black bears and wild boar, has also increased significantly. “Large rare wild animals are appearing more often than before and have increased their presence in the past few years,” said Yu Changchun, director of the protection bureau at the Jilin provincial forestry department.

“Public awareness of wildlife protection increased greatly because of government measures such as a ban on hunting, anti-poaching and compensation for human wildlife conflicts,” he said.

On Jan 9, Bayinchaolu listened to a report on a survey of Siberian tigers and Amur leopards by Beijing Normal University and the Jilin provincial department of forestry. “Protection of the big cats is part of the province’s development strategy and the national ecological plan,” Bayinchaolu said.

“The province should reinforce the protection of natural forests, and reduce and even ban commercial deforestation,” he added.

Red-crowned cranes in Jilin.[Photo by Ju Hongjun/China Daily]

The province has installed infrared and high-definition cameras to monitor wildlife activity-and deter poaching.

The provincial forestry department applied to relevant authorities and ensured the border fences between China and Russia allow the free migration of Siberian tigers and Amur leopards.

The Hunchun National Nature Reserve also cooperated with the Chinese border defense corps to monitor wildlife.

To better protect the ecological environment in the Changbai Mountain area, the Changbai Mountain National Nature Reserve Administrative Committee returned built-up areas in the reserve to forest last year.

“Since June 2014, all buildings in the reserve, whether five-star hotels or fancy restaurants, were torn down,” said committee member Xie Zhongyan, adding that it was not an easy task. “The crackdown cost more than 4 billion yuan ($644 million),” Xie said.

“If visitors could see deer, black bears, leopards and Siberian tigers, they would be excited, and spur tourism in the area,” Xie said.

And looking ahead? “A national fund should be set up for the protection of biodiversity in the Changbai Mountain area,” said Xie.

“And a team of domestic and foreign experts should be established for research into the biodiversity of the mountain.”

A Siberian tiger in Jilin.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Humans relocated so rare birds can flourish here

The Jilin provincial government decided to relocate more than 800 residents in the Xiangdong National Nature Reserve to make way for rare birds during this year’s annual legislative and political consultative sessions in February.

“Illegal reclamation remains a serious threat for the habitat of the birds,” said An Guiwu, mayor of Baicheng city where the reserve is located. “Ecological relocation will reduce human destruction of the wetlands in the reserve and help preserve the habitat for the birds.

“The city will also embrace new opportunities for ecological tourism because of the improving environment and increasing birds.”

Located in western Jilin, the reserve covers an area of more than 100,000 hectares and is home to a range of rare birds under national protection, including red-crowned cranes and white storks.

The relocated residents will be compensated for their housing and farmland, and the project will be completed this year, according to the provincial government.

More than 3,600 hectares of arable land will be restored to nature.

As the local environment has improved in recent years, the number of red-crowned cranes in the reserve has increased from 70 in 2009 to more than 130. Nearly 1,000 white swans chose to live in the reserve last spring.

Neighboring Heilongjiang province also relocated more than 5,000 residents from the Zhalong National Reserve last year in an effort to preserve the habitat for rare birds, according to media reports.

An Amur leopard in the Changbai Mountain area.[Photo/Xinhua]

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