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Environmentalist Calls for Protection Park for Endangered Antelope

Ge Yuxiu, a well-known environmental activist, wants China to set up a special park devoted to the protection of China's only endemic antelope.


The procapra przewalskii, named after the Russian naturalist Przewalskii, is an attractive highland antelope which lives around Qinghai Lake, China's largest inland saltwater lake in the northwestern province of Qinghai.


It is reported that less than 300 antelopes now live in the wild, fewer than the Giant Panda whose numbers -- due to protection and artificial breeding -- hover around the 2000 mark.


The authorities have begun breeding the antelopes in the Bird Island Conservation Area in Qinghai Lake, said Ge.


However, a lack of resources means that the breeding and protection work does not cover the antelope's major habitat areas. A special conservation area needs to be urgently set up, said Ge.


"This antelope might disappear from the earth before we understand its zoology, evolution and genetic characteristics," said Jiang Zhigang, a professor with the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Science.


The antelopes used to roam all over northwest China's Gansu and Qinghai provinces, Ningxia, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia autonomous regions. But today, because of the expansion of grazing areas and the increasing number of livestock, they are only found around Qinghai Lake.


In 1996, the antelope was classified as Critically Endangered on the World Conservation Union List of Threatened Species.


Ge Yuxiu, whose day job is in a banking regulatory bureau, won the title "King of Birds" for his twenty years' work photographing birds on Bird Island in Qinghai Lake. He has now shifted his attention to the protection of the endemic antelope.


(Xinhua News Agency January 25, 2007)

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