What has happened since then, however, has been a rare success story in the world of conservation. Over the past two decades, as tigers have been wiped out in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and southern China, numbers in northeastern China, the last corner of the country where feral cats still roam, have risen to 55. According to a recent study by Chinese scientists, the World Wildlife Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society, there is a “dramatic improvement”.
Attributed to the growing awareness of environmental protection among the Chinese public and new efforts by government officials, who, after decades, have left economic growth behind all other considerations, some of their attention has been focused on air pollution, carbon emissions and environmental degradation. has done. The Amur tiger, colloquially known as the Siberian tiger, has benefited from increased anti-poaching efforts, the removal of thousands of tiger nets, and greater protection of its habitat.
This week China will host its first major UN environment conference, which will include an address by leader Xi Jinping, who called for protecting one of his signature slogans to protect China’s “clear water and green mountains”. has done. Although the first half of the UN Biodiversity Conference was moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, delegates will gather in person for the second half in the southwestern city of Kunming in April.
On Friday, China said in a policy paper that it would prioritize nature conservation and had set aside 1 million square miles as “priority areas for biodiversity conservation”.
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China still remains the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, an issue that will come to mind when world leaders gather in Glasgow this month to discuss climate change.
Other concerns for conservationists include China’s tremendous demand for commodities such as palm oil, soybeans and timber, which have indirectly contributed to the destruction of forests in countries including Indonesia and Brazil. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has helped finance coal-fired power plants and other infrastructure projects in other countries that some say degrade the environment. And demand in China is one of the biggest drivers of the global illegal wildlife trade.
As China becomes more prosperous and turns its attention to improving its quality of life, authorities have significantly reduced air pollution in many major cities in recent years, and in addition to the better, Tibetan antelope and Asian The once endangered population of elephants has increased. Known efforts about giant pandas.
Rose Niue, chief conservation officer at the Paulson Institute, a Chicago-based think tank focused on building US-China, said the country has also taken steps to protect its coastal wetlands and mangroves, efforts that have helped restore the diversity of migratory bird populations. have helped. Relation
China’s focus on conservation can be traced to the fate of the tiger, an animal that has historically had significant cultural resonance in the country – but has also been heavily hunted for its parts and their alleged medicinal properties.
There are estimated to be around 4,000 tigers in the wild globally—down from about 100,000 a century ago. More than half are in India, while some subspecies, such as the South China tiger, exist only in captivity.
When US conservationist Dale Mikel first surveyed populations of Amur tigers in northeastern China in 1998, he and his colleagues came to the conclusion that “the tigers were essentially already lost in China.”
Recently, Mr. Beijing’s changing attitudes toward conservation have led to a flurry of measures, including reducing timber harvesting and increasing anti-poaching efforts, that he hopes will prove sustainable in tiger population growth, Mikel said.
“This is an example where economics and politics have aligned with conservation priorities in a very positive way,” said Mr. Mikel, who runs the Wildlife Conservation Society’s tiger program from his base in the Russian village of Terny, not far from the border. is with China. The establishment of a park for tigers and leopards in 2017 along the border with Russia – the world’s largest protected area for tigers – has provided a place for big cats to roam more freely, he said.
Mr Mikel and others said reaching the target of at least 300 Amur tigers needed to ensure their continued survival in China would depend on several factors. The priority will be to segregate sufficient habitat and sufficient prey such as red deer and wild boar to sustain rapidly growing numbers of predators, while protecting human and tiger populations from each other.
In China, public environmental awareness is increasing. This year a herd of wild elephants captivated the public of China with a one-month trip from their longtime home, not far from Kunming, and raised concerns about a long march, which scientists will call And Chinese state media blamed the destruction of the elephant’s habitat.
Poaching and curbing consumer demand for tiger parts will also be important – part of an annual global wild-animal trade valued by the United Nations at more than $10 billion. China is the world’s largest market for tiger bones and other parts such as teeth, eyes and whiskers, which are believed to treat a variety of physical ailments and are increasingly sought after for their scarcity and value. She goes.
Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environment Forum at the Wilson Center, said Beijing is interested in targeting poaching, partly because of its connection to organized crime. Washington DC
The outbreak of COVID-19 and its light on China’s wild-animal trade has prompted Beijing to tighten its restrictions on wildlife farming, he said, although geopolitical tensions about the origins of the pandemic have led to hindered those efforts.
Despite the recent increase in China’s tiger population, “these animals are on edge,” said Sharon Guinup, author of a book, “Tigers Forever: Saving the World’s Most Endangered Big Cat.”
“It won’t take much time… a disaster, a pandemic, a cyclone, a massive fire,” she said. “Whether it’s seven or 55, they can disappear in the blink of an eye.”
—Zhao Yuling contributed to this article.
write to Jonathan Cheng at [email protected]