Park rangers brave hard­ship to fight off poach­ers

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By XIN­HUA in Xin­ing

Songt­sen Langbo, a mem­ber of the Hol Xil Na­tional Na­ture Re­serve pa­trol team, knows all there is to know about the un­for­giv­ing weather on the Qing­hai-Ti­bet Plateau — yet a pa­trol last month still nearly cost him his life.

For 11 days, he and five col­leagues found them­selves trapped by mud and snow in the 60,000-square-km re­serve in North­west China’s Qing­hai prov­ince.

“We were on our way back from a 25-day pa­trol, and our jeeps got stuck in the mud,” said Langbo, who has led the na­ture re­serve’s fourth pa­trol group sinceMay.

The group are tasked with catch­ing poach­ers and il­le­gal min­ers, and must com­plete their main pa­trol be­fore win­ter.

Two other teams came to their res­cue, but their ve­hi­cles also got stuck.

“We had to aban­don our ve­hi­cles and we were to­tally ex­hausted. I was strug­gling to breathe at cer­tain points,” Langbo said.

“We ran out of fuel and food, and our satel­lite phones were not work­ing. We had no choice but to walk sev­eral miles.”

Al­to­gether, six ve­hi­cles were se­verely dam­aged in the in­ci­dent and three re­main trapped in the mud.

Lo­cated about 4,500 me­ters above sea level, the Hol Xil Na­tional Na­ture Re­serve is home to many pro­tected species, in­clud­ing Ti­betan an­telopes, wild yaks and wild ass. It also has about 7,000 lakes.

“It is not un­usual for teams to be trapped for a day or two, but more than that is not only rare, but rather risky,” said Buchung, chief of the re­serve man­age­ment com­mit­tee.

In the last five years, the re­serve has re­ported more than a dozen in­stances of teams get­ting trapped in the wild, he said.

“Many of our pa­trollers work in ex­tremely harsh con­di­tions, which com­pro­mise their health. Added to this, are threats of vi­o­lence from poach­ers,” Buchung said.

He said the pa­trolling jobs are dan­ger­ous and some rangers have died in the past, such as Sonam Daje, a Ti­betan of­fi­cial who was killed by poach­ers about 20 years ago.

De­spite this, the rangers con­tinue to de­ter poach­ers and pro­tect the rare species in the re­serve, es­pe­cially Ti­betan an­telopes, whose num­bers once shrank to less than 20,000 due to ram­pant poach­ing.

In­ten­sive anti-poach­ing ef­forts have in­creased the an­i­mal’s pop­u­la­tion to 70,000, and no killings have been re­ported for 10 con­sec­u­tive years in the re­serve.

“My fam­ily is very proud of me, but they don’t know how risky my job can get,” said Lhun­drup Ts­egye, 28.

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