July 12, 2007
   Posted in News Flash
Published By Tashi

Wild life poaching still rampant in Tibet

Thursday, 12 July 2007, 9:30 a.m.

Severed heads of Tibetan Antelope in early 2007, Gertse District, Ngari Prefecture

Dharamshala: According to reliable sources, early this year, a group of western adventurers found some fresh carcasses of over 20 Tibetan antelopes that had been slaughtered and skinned for their precious shatoosh wool.

The Tibetan antelope, or Chiru (Tib: tsoe) is a Class I protected species under the law of People’s Republic of China in the protection of wildlife (1989). Since then, the Beijing government has made some efforts and the number of Tibetan antelopes recently has reportedly risen, but their numbers are still perilously close to extinction, because of decades of slaughter by non-Tibetan immigrants, even after poaching was officially declared illegal in the 1990s. The fate of this animal continues to exist under immense threat.

Tibet is one of the few regions in the world where limited scientific research has been conducted on the biological aspects of its many species. Hunting in Tibet was historically decried and only a few poor people indulged in it for their survival. But since China took control of Tibet, many wild animals and birds have vanished through destruction of their habitat, or have been slaughtered by indiscriminate hunting for sport and to furbish China’s illicit trade in wildlife products. Many wild species, such as the Tibetan antelope, are now endangered.

The 2003 white paper’s assertion that no single species has become extinct in Tibet appears to be true but it did admit that a number of animals are “on the verge of extinction”. There are now at least 81 endangered species on the Tibetan Plateau, of which 39 are mammals, 37 birds, four amphibians and one reptile.

Remains of slaughtered Tibetan Antelope in early 2007, Gertse District, Ngari Prefecture

Chinese conservation measures for Tibet were initiated long after similar efforts in China itself. According to the State Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) of China, by the end of 2000, there were 17 national and provincial level nature reserves in the “Tibet Autonomous Region” (“TAR”), accounting for 40 per cent of the total area of nature reserves in China. Amdo (Ch: Qinghai) has 50,000 square kilometres of nature reserves. But the total number of staff in the “TAR” was 163 – the lowest among all China’s provinces. Dr. Gorge B. Schaller, a renowned field biologist, has also pointed out that these reserves lack the necessary rangers, trained staff, vehicles and enforcement powers to stop these poachers.

Some scenic areas of the plateau, like Dzitsa Degu (Ch: Jiuzhaigou) in eastern Tibet, which is a UNESCO World Heritage listing, was supposed to protect one of the last remaining Giant Panda habitats. Yet no pandas have been spotted for years. There has been unrestricted hunting of endangered wildlife for trophies that continue to appear in the official Chinese media, which entirely contradicts China’s conservation efforts.

According to the group of western adventurers, while they were tracking along the Khunu mountain range, bordering Gertse District of Ngari Prefecture, they witnessed some non-Tibetan immigrants with their jeeps and bikes on a hunting spree, chasing Tibetan antelope. In their attempt to make themselves look Tibetan the hunters had “Om Mani Padme Hum” syllable written on their vehicles. But the westerners confirmed that the hunters were Han Chinese or Chinese Muslims and not Tibetans.

It was also witnessed that in upper Gertse, the Chinese run most of the shops and restaurants and Tibetans are being marginalized, leading a difficult life. These Chinese, while they run their shops and restaurants, also carry out poaching and indulge in the animal skin trade. The group felt that the remains of the slaughtered animals left behind by the poachers were a clear indication of the extent of the poaching which is still rampant with no restrictions. This demonstrates the ineffectiveness of China’s conservation efforts and warns us of the future plight of these innocent animals. The government needs to double its effort and strengthen its law enforcement, if it is genuinely committed to its conservation work.

China has ratified to the International Convention on Biodiversity and we welcome its move towards protecting wildlife along with the enforcement of new wildlife legislation. But the present reality falls badly short of genuine species protection. We are hopeful that Beijing will step up its efforts towards implementing official policy through the enhancement of regulatory and enforcement mechanisms over wildlife conservation, in order to stop these precious animals disappearing from the planet.

–Report filed by Environment and Development Desk, DIIR

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