Northwest China's Shaanxi Province has made great efforts in protecting the ecology of the Qinling Mountains and wildlife species living there in recent years, increasing the population of some of the most valuable species inhabiting the area.
The province has put in place various ecosystem conservation projects, including natural forest conservation and nature reserve development projects, in addition to transforming farmland back into forest and grassland. It has built 116 nature reserves in the Qinling Mountains with a total area of 9,200 square kilometers, effectively protecting over 75 percent of all the ecosystem types and over 70 percent of the wildlife populations residing in the province.
According to the forestry bureau of Shaanxi, over 70 percent of wildlife species in the province are under protection, with the populations of key species having continually been expanded. The population of giant pandas in the Shaanxi section of the Qinling Mountains, for instance, increased from 109 in the 1980s to 345, according to the result of the fourth national survey of giant pandas. The population of golden monkeys meanwhile has exceeded 5,900, while that of takins has surpassed 5,000.
Dubbed the “Oriental Gem,” the crested ibis, one of the oldest bird species in the world, experienced a drastic drop in its population during the 20th century. It was thought to be extinct, until seven wild crested ibises were discovered in Yangxian county, Hanzhong city of Shaanxi by scientific researchers in 1981. Nowadays, the rare bird species’ population has climbed to exceed 7,000 worldwide.
“After the rediscovery of the bird, scientific researchers and volunteers have protected the bird nests 24 hours non-stop for more than 10 years,” said Zhang Yueming, a senior engineer at the Shaanxi Hanzhong Crested Ibis National Nature Reserve, which is situated mostly in Yangxian county. “Now our protection efforts have expanded to protecting the whole ecological system.” Zhang added.
Apart from protecting local habitats, monitoring populations of crested ibises, and joining hands with local communities, the conservationists have also worked on artificial breeding programs and have gone on to release birds raised this way into natural habitats so as to integrate them into the wild crested ibis population.
At present, the province has established five bases for artificially bred crested ibises, having already released four groups into the wild, including releasing artificially bred birds where the species previously inhabited in the past.
Currently, the habitat of the bird species living in the wild has expanded from fewer than 5 square kilometers in the 1980s to some 16,000 square kilometers.
The majestic birds can now be easily spotted foraging in the fields of Yangxian county. Local villagers reported that no chemical fertilizers have been applied in any of their fields, with all of the villagers based in the locality playing their part in protecting the birds.
Over the years, the birds have also taken up residence in other parts of the country, such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Zhejiang Province. China has also sent some pairs of the birds to Japan and South Korea.
Besides, with the continuous improvement of the ecological environment in the Qinling Mountains, more and more species have likewise seen brighter prospects there.
The primula filchnerae, which was spotted in the Qinling Mountains in 1904, was thought to be extinct for a long period of time. In 2015, it was rediscovered in Yangxian county by experts, and then was later found again in March of this year. “It is the first time that the flower was spotted in a region with an altitude of 600 meters, indicating that the ecological environment is getting better,” said Peng Hailong, the botany lover who discovered the flower in March.