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Guardians of plateau wildlife


19:02, April 10, 2013

LHASA, April 10 (Xinhua) -- A notebook, a pair of binoculars, a bag of food and a mobile phone. That's all Tashi Phungstog takes when he drives his motorcycle into the vast uninhabited prairie of northwest Tibet every day.

Tashi Phungstog, 31, patrols the Sergling-mtsho National Nature Reserve, one of the largest nature reserves in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. It is located at an altitude of over 4,500 meters in the Changtang Grassland in Nagqu Prefecture.

Covering an area of nearly 20,000 square kilometers, Sergling-mtsho is home to scores of rare and endangered animals and plants, including black-necked cranes, Tibetan antelopes, wild Tibetan donkeys, wild yaks and snow cocks, as well as Tibetan sea buckthorn.

The abundance of precious species has attracted the gazes of poachers.

To protect the area's flora and fauna, as well as safeguard the fragile alpine ecosystem, a nature reserve for black-necked cranes was founded in 1993 and upgraded to a national nature reserve in 2003.

There are currently 291 wildlife protection workers in Nagqu Prefecture, most of whom are herdsmen that live around the grassland.

Each guardian can be equipped with a motorcycle and receive a monthly wage of 400 yuan (65 U.S. dollars) from the government.

Tashi Phungstog took a position protecting wildlife four years ago. He rides his motorcycle to patrol a 2-square-kilometer area about three or four times a day. Sometimes he goes alone, but other times, he may be joined by his fellow patrolmen.

"We look around to check if there are injured, sick or dead animals, and we are also responsible for reporting to relevant authorities if we spot poachers," he said.

Although the salary is not spectacular, Tashi Phungstog said he loves his job.

"According to Buddhist doctrine, lives are equal. As a devout Buddhist, animals and plants also need protection. So, what I am doing is accumulating virtues, and I hope I can do this job my whole life."

Tashi Phungstog said he once found some poachers, which he reported to the local traffic department, hoping they could stop the vehicle the poachers drove into the reserve. Nearly 2,000 fish were taken from the poachers and released, which left a lasting impression upon the patrolman.

"As an ordinary person, I can save thousands of lives," he said.

"After years of hard work, wildlife conservation in Nagqu has seen a great improvement," said Migmar Tsering, vice director of the Forestry Bureau of Nagqu.

As wildlife protection awareness has grown among local residents in recent years, the wildlife population in Changtang has increased and the environment has improved, said Migmar Tsering, adding that wildlife protection workers like Tashi Phungstog have played an important role in this progress.

According to statistics, the number of Tibetan antelopes in Changtang increased from some 60,000 in 2000 to more than 120,000 at present. The numbers of wild Tibetan donkeys and wild yaks rose from 50,000 to more than 80,000, and from 6,000 to 9,000, respectively, during the same period.

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