Protection for wild animals downgraded, as populations grow

Quite a few protected wild animals in China have been downgraded in their protection level, including the Tibetan antelope, the giant panda, the crested ibis, the snow leopard, and more.

Tibetan antelopes roam in the Kekexili nature reserve in northwest China Qinghai province on April 20.

Thanks to national efforts in biodiversity conservation, their populations kept on growing in recent years, leading to the downgrades. They are all signs of effective protection on wild species in the country.

The number of Tibetan antelopes in China has quadrupled in the past decades, reaching about 300,000 from fewer than 70,000 in the 1980s and 1990s, said a China Daily report on August 11.

Tibetan antelopes are mostly found in the plateau region of Northwest China, including the Tibet autonomous region, Qinghai province and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Thriving amid an ever-expanding herd in the areas, the Tibetan antelope has been downgraded from “Endangered” to “Near Threatened” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

A staffer cares for a baby giant panda at a research center in Shaanxi province on August 20.

Over the past five years, China has made steady progress in ecological conservation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Giant pandas, for example, are no longer classified as endangered as its number in the wild has reached 1,800.

According to a Xinhua report August 20, there are 1,864 wild giant pandas across the country. They are first class, key protected wild animals in China and are seen as the flagship and umbrella species of China’s endangered-species protection.

Back to the 1970s, the crested ibis was on the verge of extinction. In May 1981, a villager surnamed He led a researcher panel in discovering seven crested ibises in Yang county, northwest China’s Shaanxi province.

From then on, a nationwide campaign was initiated to protect the critically endangered bird, and in the ensuing years, presences of the bird and its relatives have extended from Shaanxi to other Chinese provinces.

The glossy ibis, a close relative of the endangered crested ibis, appeared in central Yunnan’s Dianchi Lake in 2020, and bird lovers in southwest Yunnan’s Menglian were excited by the show-up of 10 glossy ibises in April this year.

Two crested ibises rest near their nest in Yang county, Shaanxi province on May 21.

According to a report issued by Shaanxi province in June 2020, over 4,400 crested ibises had been counted across China, and the protection level of the bird was downgraded to “endangered”.

China contributes to 60 percent of the habitat for snow leopards worldwide. In September 2017, the International Union for Conservation of Nature adjusted the species’ protection level from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable,” said a People’s Daily report in early 2018.

However, the Chinese ecology and environment departments said the protective measures remained in effect in spite of the downgrade, noting the country has gone through 40 years of unremitting conservation over the snow leopard.

In early February this year, China released a revised list of the key wild animal species under state protection, downgrading the ibex, assam macaque and boa from Class I to Class II animals under national protection.

The Alpine ibexes mainly dwell in northwestern Xinjiang, Gansu and Inner Mongolia, while the assam macaques live in the country’s southwestern areas that border India, Nepal, Myanmar and more.

Yunnan fire fighters release a boa in the wilderness.

On July 27, a 3.6-meter-long boa weighing 39 kilograms swallowed six ducks in a villager’s enclosure in central Yunnan’s Xinping county, and following a call to the police, local forest management and fire fighters captured the python and released it in the wilderness.