By Wan Yu, People’s Daily
As China has made active efforts to protect ecological environment and biodiversity, the country is seeing more and more traces of wild animals, which signals evident improvement and restoration of China’s wildlife habitats.
The country has established a relatively complete system of nature reserves that systematically and thoroughly puts large areas of natural ecosystems under protection, and effectively improves the living environment of wildlife, said Cui Shuhong, director-general of the Department of Nature and Ecology Conservation of China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, at a press conference on July 7.
The wild giant panda, Tibetan antelope, Milu deer, and other rare and endangered species are living in better environments, as pointed out by Cui at the press conference on the Eco Forum Global Guiyang 2021, a national-level high-end platform on ecological civilization to be held in Guiyang, capital of southwest China’s Guizhou province, on July 12 and 13.
Populations of several rare and endangered species have gradually recovered, and the numbers of Siberian tigers, Amur leopards, Asian elephants and crested ibises have grown rapidly, he added.
Wild giant pandas were once on the verge of extinction, but now their status has been officially downgraded from “endangered” to “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as their population grows. At present, over 1,800 giant pandas are living in the wild.
There have been many reports recently on rare and endangered wild animals, which Cui believes have mirrored China’s fruits in biodiversity conservation and ecological restoration.
Rare and endangered wild animals including wild giant pandas and snow leopards have been reported to be frequently captured by cameras. Siberian tigers appearing in villages in northeast China’s Heilongjiang province and Asian elephants heading north in southwest China’s Yunnan province were also on the news. Recently, a Bryde’s whale was discovered at the Mirs Bay, Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong province.
During the annual sessions of China’s national legislature and top political advisory body in March, the delegation of northwest China’s Qinghai province showed photos of Chinese desert cats, a wild animal species under Grade-I conservation in China. The photos were taken in the Qilian Mountain National Park. Chinese desert cats, known as one of the most mysterious species of the Felidae family, are rare and sparse, and have been hardly trailed over the years.
In the same month, photographers captured images of three rufous-necked hornbills, also under Grade-I conservation in China, in mountain forests more than 2,000 meters above the sea level in Yingjiang county, Dehong Dai and Jingpo autonomous prefecture of Yunnan. It was the first time to capture images of this species since the 1980s.
Rufous-necked hornbill has been listed in the Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora as one of the species threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by trade in specimens.
In recent years, China has carried out major activities and taken effective measures to safeguard biodiversity, and remarkable results have been achieved.
Cui noted that China has significantly accelerated the mainstreaming of biodiversity, and gradually incorporated biodiversity protection, an important part of the ecological civilization construction, into various national plans and projects. In its five-year plans for national economic and social development, the country made maintaining biodiversity a key task of ecological protection and restoration.
In 2010, China drafted and adopted the National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (2011-2030), which serves as a guide to its mid- and long-term biodiversity conservation efforts.
In June 2020, the country issued a master plan that includes major projects protecting key ecosystems, preparing to comprehensively strengthen the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and biodiversity.
According to Cui, China has steadily formed an ecological red line system that enforces strict protection over certain zones, and basically finished identifying such zones for ecological conservation. At least 25 percent of China’s land area shall be demarcated for ecological protection, covering major ecological functional zones, regions that are ecologically sensitive and vulnerable, as well as key regions for biodiversity.
China has also constantly improved in-situ and ex-situ ecological conservation networks, as Cui pointed out. By the end of 2019, China had 11,800 nature reserves of various types, which covered an area of over 170 million hectares and accounted for 18 percent of the country’s land area. It helped China meet the Aichi Biodiversity Targets goal of protecting 17 percent of terrestrial areas ahead of schedule, Cui said, adding that the country has also set up botanical gardens and wildlife breeding bases and successfully bred a large number of rare and endangered species.
Cui noted that China has made major progress in ecosystem protection and restoration. By implementing and advancing a large batch of ecological conservation and restoration projects, including comprehensive and systematic treatment of mountains, waters, forests, farmlands, lakes, grasslands, and deserts, natural forest conservation, turning the low-yielding farmland back into forests and pasture, and wetland protection and restoration, China has seen a continuous increase in forest coverage and decrease in degraded land areas.
In January 2020, the country implemented a full fishing ban in 332 conservation areas in the Yangtze River basin. The ban was later expanded to a 10-year moratorium for all natural waterways of the river, including its major tributaries and lakes, taking effect since Jan. 1, 2021.
Besides, China has continuously enhanced supervision and law enforcement on crimes related to wild animals. Through inter-department, inter-regional and international joint law enforcement, it has severely contained illegal and criminal acts on biodiversity.
In 2019, China saw nearly 10,000 illegal cases involving wildlife. The figure has continuously dropped thanks to China’s efforts to crack down on crimes hurting biodiversity.
From 2017 to 2019, the country spotted illegal mining and construction of factories in 342 national nature reserves, and found out 5,503 issues of ecological environment destruction in national nature reserves, including illegal construction of tourist facilities and small hydropower stations in the core and buffer zone of nature reserves. A total of 5,038or 92 percent of them have been rectified.