The rare Tibetan antelopes, or chiru, that live on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau have adapted well to the high-speed trains that occasionally roar by, a Chinese zoologist has said.
The extensive use of underpasses shows the animals' migration habits have not been disturbed by the railway, Yang Qisen, researcher with the Institute of Zoology under the Chinese Academyof Sciences, was quoted by Thursday's China Daily.
According to Yang, the antelopes live mostly in eastern part of Qinghai Province. However, every June, pregnant females and young members of the herd migrate to the Hoh Xil region of western Qinghai and northeastern Tibet to give birth.
The animals make their return journey in August, which means they pass under the railway twice a year, he said.
Yang said he and his team have patrolled the railway to monitor the impact it has had on local wildlife for the past five years between June and September.
In 2004, 96 percent of the migrating antelopes were seen using the underpasses. After 2005, the figure rose to 98 percent, Yang said.
A report produced by Yang and his team was published last month in the science journal Nature.
Xia Lin, who co-authored the Nature report, said: "The antelope certainly seem to have adapted to the railway."
But conclusions should not be drawn overnight and the situation still requires monitoring, she said.
"We can't say the railway has had no impact on the environment, but it does seem to be small," she said.
The situation was different, however, during the construction of the railway, Yang said.
In 2003, the year building work began, 75 percent of the antelopes did not migrate. They stopped close to the construction sites in eastern Qinghai and gave birth there, he said.
Prior to the construction of the railway, Yang and his team conducted an environmental impact assessment and also designed the first underpass.