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Wild animals cause mischief in Tibet

Xinhua, July 11, 2014 Adjust font size:

A Tibetan herder came home one night, only to find a brown bear sitting in a corner of his house drinking a can of soda water.

Scared as he was, he knew it was illegal to kill the bear, an endangered species under protection by the Chinese government. Unable to make it leave, the herder could only seek help from the local forestry authority in Nagqu Prefecture in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

A growing number of Tibetan herders have had similar encounters with wild animals, whose populations are increasing thanks to improved ecology in the Changtang Pastureland, located in the heart of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Brown bears, wild yaks, snow leopards and blue sheep are among the most frequently reported "troublemakers," according to Tsongkha, deputy chief of Tibet's regional forestry department.

Thanks to protection, Tibet's wildlife population has increased by 30 percent over the past two decades, he said. "In the remote pastureland of Nagqu Prefecture alone, there are more than 10,000 wild yaks, 100,000 Tibetan antelopes and at least 80,000 wild donkeys.

These remote areas are sparsely populated by humans, who number only about 12,000. Most are herders raising a total of 1 million heads of cattle.

While human activities are inevitably a disturbance, wild animals sometimes also put man's life and property at risk, said Wu Haipeng, Party chief of the forestry bureau in Nagqu Prefecture.

Last year, 95 percent of the townships and villages in Nagqu were disturbed by brown bears, wolves, lynxes or snow leopards, Wu said. Three people, including a teenager, died after being attacked by wild animals, and seven were injured.

Wild animal attacks also killed more than 50,000 heads of cattle in Nagqu, said Wu.

Last year, the local government paid 21 million yuan (3.36 million U.S. dollars) in compensation for the herders' losses caused by wild animals, according to Wu.

Across Tibet, such compensation totaled 340 million yuan from 2006 to the end of 2013.

To avoid further damages, the local government has stepped up safety education among the herders.

"We keep telling the herders to properly dispose of butchered cattle to avoid drawing wild animals into villages," said Wu. "When a brown bear is in sight, it is advisable to beat drums and gongs or light up fire to scare it away."

Forestry workers must discover new ways to drive away wild animals without injuring them, he said. "This is because many animals, not knowing that people once killed, are now completely unafraid of human beings."

Wildlife conservation specialists say it is crucial to find out more about the habitat and nature of Tibet's wild animals, why they attack and how to prevent tragedies.

Despite the tough, low-oxygen plateau environment, the Changtang Pastureland is an ideal habitat for wild animals, with grass, lakes and ample sunshine.

Animals are reproducing fast on the pastureland as more nature reserves have been built exclusively for wildlife and the locals have long given up hunting.

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