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Rangers key to protection of wetlands

Xinhua, March 15, 2016 Adjust font size:

Lozang Thub reaches into his traditional Tibetan robe and proudly presents a withered green booklet, an inspection certificate that qualified his father as a forest ranger. Inside is a photo of the old man.

He has carried it since his father died in 2009 as a reminder of his inspiration to become a ranger in Qinghai Province's Sanjiangyuan nature reserve.

"It was my father who inspired me to be a ranger," said the Tibetan herder.

Locals like Lozang Thub, 54, are the core of protection efforts at Sanjiangyuan, the headwaters of the Yangtze, Yellow and Mekong rivers in the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai.

As China plans to establish Sanjiangyuan National Park, thousands of local herders will be hired as rangers to guard against poaching, polluting and illegal mining.

"We should protect the environment like protecting our eyes and treat the environment the way we treat our lives," President Xi Jinping said during the ongoing annual parliamentary session.

He also called for concerted efforts to tackle poverty in the ethnic Tibetan region.

The Sanjiangyuan National Park will cover 123,100 square kilometers.

The Yangtze River area of the park will span 90,300 square kilometers including 15 villages and more than 20,000 people.

People will remain in the park, following their traditional way of life, said Lu Yuan, a spokesman for Yushu city's environment protection office.

The government will hire one member of each family as a salaried ranger, he said.

The park is mostly a mechanism of zoning and management. There will not be much visible barriers other than a few signs to separate the buffer zones and core conservation areas. Some tourism and educational projects will be allowed on the edges of the park. The buffer zone allows only approved scientific research. The core area strictly bans any activities, Lu said.

"Paid rangers and local volunteers are guardians of the great rivers that affect the life of billions in Asia," Phuntsokdawa, president of Yushu's literary federation said.

As a ranger, Lozang Thub has extensive responsibilities — to prevent pollution, excessive herding and look out for poachers — though in reality, most of his work involves monitoring and protecting black-necked cranes that breed in the wetland.

To intercept egg thieves who could sneak from any direction, he and his fellow rangers take turns sleeping in tents on a slope at the center of the wetland.

About 10 rangers patrol the 10,000 hectares of Longbao Wetland Park.

The provincial government is planning to build another wetland park along the Dequyuan River, also part of the headwaters of the Yangtze. About 1,000 additional rangers will be needed and their pay will rise to 1,800 yuan (US$277) from 1,000 yuan, Zheng said.