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Hoh Xil under threat

(Global Times)

09:51, August 30, 2011

A photo from 1997 captures Hoh Xil's scenic beauty. Photo: CFP

While the Himalayan blue sheep and Tibetan gazelles of Dulan county in Qinghai Province on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau await for their possible demise from seven foreign nationals who want to hunt them for sport, one of the area's neighboring species – the Tibetan antelope, which lives in the Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve, might face similar threats from domestic tourists this October.

The Beijing-based China Resources Snow Breweries Company launched an adventure travel package that allows tourists to cross Hoh Xil, an uninhabited area, which sits at an average altitude of about 5,000 meters; however, the concern is that the area is also the idyllic home to many precious wild animals.

The travel campaign has triggered concern among environmentalists, with some pointing out the company is actually targeting commercial interests under the disguise of environmental protection.

Wu Zhu, an environment protection volunteer, said on his Sina microblog that he is against the company's plan to cross Hoh Xil.

"I am pushing the company to make their route public, then we will know which part they will visit. I couldn't believe that with the participant recruitment under way, they said the route has not been decided," Wu told the Global Times.

Feng Yongfeng, one of the founders of the Beijing-based environmental protection organization Da'erwen, said that after he spoke with the company, he found that it has neither a clear understanding of the situation in Hoh Xil nor any specific ideas on how to protect its environment. "Look at the company's similar activities over the past six years. I'd rather think it's another attempt to promote their beer brand by sacrificing limited travel fees," Feng told the Global Times.

"Challenging the World" (yongchuang tianya) has been an annual creative program that the company has used since 2005 to promote their brand. It organized travel expeditions to the Turpan Basin in 2008 so people could experience the high temperatures there, and in 2010 they even simulated the Chinese Red Army's epic Long March.

"The theme of our program this time is to continue advocating the pioneer spirit of our brand and remove the mysterious mask of the uninhabited area, calling on the public to pay more attention to Hoh Xil," Wang Rui, an employee at the company's marketing department, told the Global Times.

"The specific route is still being discussed by some experts. But we will pick tourists who have a strong awareness of environment protection, and we will not go to those places forbidden by law," she added.

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