Life at the top

Pa­trol­men in Tibet’s Tsongyi county watch over the area’s more than 100,000 an­i­mals

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By PALDEN NYIMA in Tsongyi, Tibet palden_ny­ima@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Wildlife pa­trol­men of the Ti­betan plateau look af­ter more than 100,000 an­i­mals, from wolves and an­telopes to wild asses and yaks.

Wildlife pa­trol­man Janyor and his col­leagues have three in­dis­pens­able pieces of equip­ment that they are never with­out while work­ing on the Ti­betan plateau — a te­le­scope, a thick win­ter coat and a mo­tor­bike.

Janyor is a no­mad who lives in the Tibet au­ton­o­mous re­gion’s high­est county, Tsongyi, which has an av­er­age at­ti­tude of 5,000 me­ters above sea level.

Cov­er­ing about 120,000 sq km, the county ac­counts for one-twelfth of Tibet’s to­tal land area and is lo­cated 800 km north­west of the re­gional cap­i­tal Lhasa.

It contains the world’s third largest glacier, called Purog Kan­gri, and is also the re­gion’s least pop­u­lous county. This makes it a haven for many rare species, such as the Ti­betan an­te­lope, wild yak, Ti­betan brown bear, ar­gali, Ti­betan wild ass, Mon­go­lian gazelle and black­necked crane.

Statistics from the lo­cal forestry bureau show that there are more than 100,000 an­i­mals roam­ing free in the area, un­der the State’s pro­tec­tion.

Janyor comes from the county’s Yarchu town­ship and started pro­tect­ing the area’s wildlife in 2008. He and 10 other pa­trol­men traverse the vast grass­land four to five times ev­ery month.

“Some­times two or three of us go on pa­trol to­gether, but most of the time, I go by my­self,” said the 46-year-old.

The work in­volves mon­i­tor­ing liv­ing con­di­tions for the wildlife, keep­ing count of their num­bers, and record­ing any in­juries or deaths.

Ev­ery month, Janyor rides be­tween 160 and 400 km on his mo­tor­bike, even ven­tur­ing out in the win­ter, when the area is prone to heavy snow­falls.

Some­times, he has to live out in the wild for days, bring­ing with him dried meat and roasted bar­ley flour for food. If he is lucky, he can spend a night in a no­mad’s tent, but some­times he has to sleep un­der the stars.

In re­turn for his work, Janyor re­ceives a yearly stipend from the lo­cal govern­ment — which last year was in­creased by 50 per­cent to 7,200 yuan ($1,060), from the 4,800 yuan he got pre­vi­ously.

“I have learned from my ex­pe­ri­ences on the job that the num­ber of wild species are in­creas­ing,” he said.

“But there are also fre­quent an­i­mal at­tacks on no­mads.”

Ti­betan brown bears and wild yaks are the main cul­prits, ac­cord­ing to Janyor, with the bears, in par­tic­u­lar, prone to in­vad­ing no­mads’ camps and dam­ag­ing their be­long­ings.

“I heard of a con­flict be­tween an­i­mals and a no­mad eight years ago,” he said. “Since I took the job, I have found that the con­flicts are hap­pen­ing more of­ten.”

Wildlife pro­tec­tion laws make it il­le­gal to kill much of the county’s fauna, even if the an­i­mals are tres­pass­ing or you come un­der at­tack.

“We report the cases of an­i­mals at­tack­ing peo­ple and live­stock to the town­ship govern­ment, and the vic­tims get ac­ci­dent com­pen­sa­tion,” said Janyor, adding that he en­joys his work.

“I am pleased to see no one killing or harm­ing an­i­mals on the grass­land and I get paid to do it.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Tsonyi County Forestry Bureau, there are 74 pa­trol­men in the county’s 31 ad­min­is­tra­tive vil­lages.

Tser­ing Dor­jee, from the bureau, de­scribed Ti­betan brown bear at­tacks as a se­ri­ous prob­lem, but said com­pen­sa­tion is paid to any­one who suf­fers a loss.

“The bears of­ten break win­dows, en­ter peo­ple’s houses to break fur­ni­ture, eat the food and some­times hurt res­i­dents as well,” said the 26-year-old.

“Own­ers are com­pen­sated 250 yuan for the loss of an adult sheep, 50 yuan for a lamb, 1,500 yuan for an adult yak, and 150 for a calf.”

De­spite these prob­lems, the pa­trol­men’s work is hav­ing an ef­fect.

Ac­cord­ing to Tser­ing Dor­jee, brown bear and Ti­betan an­te­lope num­bers are both re­cov­er­ing — whereas pre­vi­ously they were hunted for food or be­cause of a lack of aware­ness about con­ser­va­tion.

“By strength­en­ing pro­tec­tion and rais­ing peo­ple’s aware­ness about pro­tec­tion, the an­i­mal pop­u­la­tions are grow­ing again,” he said.

PHO­TOS BY PALDEN NYIMA / CHINA DAILY

From top left: A wolf seen in Tsongy. The world’s third big­gest land glacier, the Purog Kan­gri Glacier, is lo­cated in Tsongyi county. A herd of Ti­betan an­telopes in Tsonyi county. Ti­betan wild asses are seen fre­quently in Tsonyi county, the Tibet au­ton­o­mous re­gion. A wild yak seen in the wild in Tsonyi count.

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