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Tents Used to Aid Tibetan Antelopes in Birth Season

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Preservationists in China's Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve said on Wednesday that they have set up several big tents on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau region, to help pregnant Tibetan antelopes give birth in harsh weather.

Wang Zhoutai, chief of the Protection and Management Office at the reserve, said they have monitored 1,000 pregnant antelopes at the bank of Zonag Lake, where the tents were set up 4,700 meters above sea level to shelter the animals.

"Snow storms were frequent in the area recently. These antelopes have traveled a long way on migration to reach the place to give birth," he said.

About 30,000 Tibetan antelopes gave birth in the reserve in northwest Qinghai Province last year, which is dubbed a "big maternity ward" for the endangered animal, native to the plateau region.

The reserve closed tourist activities in the core area of the reserve in May, in bid to guarantee the pregnant antelopes remain undisturbed by tourists.

Wang said the birth season will end in August. The reserve has reinforced patrols and prepared to tackle armed poachers.

The antelopes have became a target of poachers since the 1980s. International traffickers make luxury shawls, each piece of which requires the pelts of three to five antelopes.

Armed poaching had led to a drastic decline in the antelope population in the 1990s. There were only 20,000 left in Hol Xil when rangers started to fight the illegal practice in February 1998.

The population in the reserve had increased to 60,000 by 2008, said the reserve.

(Xinhua News Agency June 17, 2009)