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Monitoring Station to Safeguard Tibetan Antelopes

China plans to build a permanent monitoring station to watch Tibetan antelopes in a northwestern highland, to safeguard the breeding of the endangered species.

A number of wooden or brick-structured houses are expected to be constructed along the bank of Zonag Lake in Hoh Xil Tibetan Antelope Nature Reserve as of May to allow three to five forestry and veterinary staff to work all year long in the area, which is 4,600 meters above sea level.

More than 30,000 female Tibetan antelopes flock to the lake region between May and August every year and 80 percent produce babies here. About 45 percent of the newborns will survive, said Cega, director of the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve Administration, based in Qinghai Province.

Workers kept coming to the lake area during the breeding seasons over the past years to protect the animals from being preyed by armed poachers, but they have to reside in temporary tents.

The planned station, to be equipped with necessary monitoring, medical and rescue facilities, will greatly improve the living and working conditions for the experts, who will work in turn in the wild.

The constructions will be painted to imitate the surrounding environment in order to not disturb wild animals, according to Cega.

Detailed construction plans are subject to ratification of the State Forestry Administration.

The population of Tibetan antelopes in Hoh Xil is close to 60,000, compared with 20,000 in 1997, thanks to anti-poaching and other protection efforts, according to Cega.

Four other monitoring stations have been in operation in other parts of the natural reserve since 1997, when the administration was established. Their job is to deter poachers.

Tibetan antelopes, a rare species found only in China, are targeted by poachers for use in making shawls that sell for up to US$11,000 a time. Their rampant hunting has led to a drastic decline in the antelope population, from hundreds of thousands early last century to just around 70,000 to 100,000 today.

The 45,000-sq km Hoh Xillies at the juncture of Qinghai, Tibet Autonomous Region and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in western China. It is also home to wild yak, Tibetan wild ass and other species.

(Xinhua News Agency February 1, 2008)

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