China, Laos to create natural reserve to protect Asian elephant

10:21, December 14, 2009      

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China and Laos have signed an agreement to jointly build a cross-border natural reserve to better protect Asian elephants and other rare animals, an official said Sunday.

Tang Zhongming, deputy director of the state-level Xishuangbanna Natural Reserve Administration, said the natural reserve covers 31,300 hectares of forests in China and further 23,400 hectares in Laos.

The protection of rare animals, including Asian elephants and Indo-Chinese tigers, is facing mounting pressure from economic and social development and increasing human mobility, Tang said.

The bio-diversity in the region also was increasingly at risk, the official said.

"The cross-border natural reserve is a pioneering and also a necessary work," Tang said.

According to the agreement, the two nations will provide technical training for staff members in the reserve and boost villagers' protection awareness and people-to-people exchanges, he said.

The two will carry out study on human-elephant conflicts and work out solutions, jointly patrol and monitor resources, and launch inquiries on bio-diversity.

The two will also launch campaign to promote resources protection and set up a geographical information sharing system concerning the natural reserve.

About 250 Asian elephants, the largest land animal in Asia, live in the wild in the extreme southwest of China's Yunnan Province. The elephants frequently cross the bordering forests.

As recently as 1995, only 25,600 to 32,750 Asian elephants were thought to remain in the wild from India to Vietnam, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Since then, several populations have dwindled still further and scientists fear that the current populations may have fallen well below 1995 estimates, the agency said on its website.

Yang Songhai, director of the Xishuangbanna Natural Reserve Administration, said that after years of bilateral exchanges and cooperation, the two sides have reached a consensus that natural protection has no borders.

"It's our unshirkable duty to protect the wild life and maintain an ecological balance in the bordering region," Yang said.

The joint natural reserve is part of the efforts to build better habitats for the wildlife in the bordering tropical rain forests.

The efforts aimed to connect the separated tropical rain forests into bigger and also better habitats for the huge animals and other wildlife, Yang said.

The Asian Development Bank is also funding model projects to build protection corridors linking Xishuangbanna and the Luangnamtha province in Laos, Yang said.

Source: Xinhua
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