Watch­ing wildlife

Fes­ti­val al­lows vis­i­tors to see 17 kinds of mam­mals and 94 species of birds

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By DAQIONG in Lhasa and CHEN LIANG in Bei­jing Con­tact the writ­ers at chen­liang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Imag­ine a place where, as an am­a­teur na­ture lover, you have chance to see 17 species of mam­mals, 94 dif­fer­ent kinds of birds and 230 types of plants in just four days.

It might seem like an im­pos­si­ble task, es­pe­cially for any­one who is not a pro­fes­sional sci­en­tific re­searcher.

But that’s ex­actly what those who took part in the 2017 Nangqen In­ter­na­tional Wildlife Watch Fes­ti­val did, with many of their sight­ings sub­stan­ti­ated by pho­to­graphic ev­i­dence.

The event, held be­tween July 20 and 23 in Nangqen county, part of Qing­hai province’s Yushu Ti­betan au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture, was or­ga­nized by the county govern­ment and Shan­shui Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion based in Bei­jing.

Its stated aim: to cel­e­brate the rich bio­di­ver­sity of this unique part of China.

Hid­den away in the bor­der area be­tween Qing­hai, the Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion and Sichuan province, and about a four-hour bus ride from Yushu city, Nangqen of­fers a di­verse habi­tat of grass­land, forested hills and high moun­tains that pro­vide sanc­tu­ary for a host of dif­fer­ent species.

Some are en­demic, like the Ti­betan bunt­ing — a spar­row-sized bird that lives among bushes at an alti­tude of 4,000 me­ters or more in re­stricted ar­eas on the Qing­hai-Ti­bet Plateau — and the mag­pie-sized Ti­betan babax, which can be found in the area’s hill­side woods.

Nangqen is also known for some of the high­est den­si­ties of large preda­tors in the coun­try, in­clud­ing the Eurasian lynx, Asian brown bears, wolves and elu­sive snow leop­ards.

For the fes­ti­val, more than 50 wildlife en­thu­si­asts from across China, Aus­tralia, France, the United King­dom and the United States formed 17 teams and com­peted to see who could pho­to­graph the most species. The con­test area mainly ranged from their base camp at 3,800 me­ters to 5,000 me­ters — well above the tree line.

Mem­bers of the lo­cal Ti­betan com­mu­nity were hired as driv­ers, guides and to run the camp­site where the par­tic­i­pants stayed.

Ac­cord­ing to pro­fes­sor Lu Zhi, a con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­o­gist from Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity and a mem­ber of the fes­ti­val’s panel of judges, the area’s rich bio­di­ver­sity can be at­trib­uted to the lo­cals’ tra­di­tional aware­ness of eco­log­i­cal con­ser­va­tion. She said she ex­pects the fes­ti­val to help fur­ther pro­mote a mode of de­vel­op­ment that pri­or­i­tizes com­mu­nity-based na­ture ex­pe­ri­ences.

Terry Town­shend, an­other of the judges and a con­ser­va­tion­ist from the UK, said on his English-lan­guage blog Bird­ing Bei­jing that the fes­ti­val was the best wildlife-watch­ing event he had taken part in, demon­strat­ing “cit­i­zen sci­ence at its best”.

All of the pho­tos cho­sen for this story were taken by the fes­ti­val par­tic­i­pants dur­ing the event.

WANGKA NYIMA / FOR CHINA DAILY

A herd of white-lipped deer feed on a slope in Baizha For­est Farm in Nangqen county, Qing­hai province.

ZHANG CHENGHAO / FOR CHINA DAILY

A starry night at Baizha For­est Farm.

ZHANG CHENGHAO / FOR CHINA DAILY

Par­tic­i­pants in the 2017 Nangqen In­ter­na­tional Wildlife Watch Fes­ti­val take a group photo at the base camp.

ZHANG CHENGHAO / FOR CHINA DAILY

The Eurasian lynx is one of China’s rarest preda­tors.

ZENG XIANGLE / FOR CHINA DAILY

A male Ti­betan bunt­ing perches on bushes grow­ing on moun­tains be­hind the Gar Monastery.

BAN DINGYING / FOR CHINA DAILY

A pika runs on a rocky slope.

TSELYI / FOR CHINA DAILY

A bloom­ing alpine flower.

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