Bal­anc­ing ecol­ogy

Grass­lands feel im­pact as Ti­betan an­te­lope re­bounds

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By TANG YUE tangyue@chi­

The re­bound in num­bers of the once-en­dan­gered Ti­betan an­te­lope has come with some un­in­tended con­se­quences, a con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cial said on Wed­nes­day.

While the species’ sur­vival is more as­sured now, its grow­ing num­bers also have put some pres­sure on frag­ile moun­tain grass­lands.

The an­te­lope pop­u­la­tion had de­clined to about 70,000 in the early 1990s from poach­ing, but it has reached about 250,000 na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing 150,000 in the Ti­bet au­tonomous re­gion, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the Chi­nese Academy of Sci­ences re­leased on Wed­nes­day.

The an­te­lope was down­graded last month from “en­dan­gered” to “near threat­ened”, drop­ping two lev­els, at the sixth World Con­ser­va­tion Congress of the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“On one hand, cer­tainly, it is good to see the pro­tec­tion mea­sures are ef­fec­tive,” said Yan Xun, a se­nior wildlife con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cial with the State Forestry Ad­min­is­tra­tion. “But on the other, we’ve re­ceived some re­ports that the an­i­mals have done dam­age to grass­lands in some ar­eas.”

The dam­age has not been acute enough to sug­gest the an­te­lope pop­u­la­tion should be con­trolled, Yan said.

The pop­u­la­tion, which reached al­most 1 mil­lion a cen­tury ago, was in har­mony with na­ture. Now, some habi­tat has been oc­cu­pied by peo­ple and thus the an­te­lope are more con­cen­trated in cer­tain ar­eas, put­ting pres­sure on grass­lands, he said.

An academy re­port based on a three-year study said the ecosys­tem of the Ti­betan plateau has been sta­ble over the past 20 years, al­though grass­lands have de­creased by 0.13 per­cent.

Wang Xiao­dan, who co-au­thored the re­port, said re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion tech­niques for de­graded grass­lands are not well de­vel­oped and the ter­rain and cli­mate of the plateau pose ex­tra chal­lenges.

Other chal­lenges re­main: Re­ports show the pop­u­la­tion of black-necked crane, or Ti­betan crane, is 7,000. There are about 10,000 Ti­betan yaks, and the Ti­betan red deer num­ber 1,000.


Ti­betan an­telopes cross grass­lands at Nagqu pre­fec­ture in the Ti­bet au­tonomous re­gion. The species’ pop­u­la­tion has risen to 250,000, lead­ing to a down­grad­ing of its level of pro­tec­tion.

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