The Sanjiangyuan area, often referred to as China’s “water tower,” encompasses the headwaters of the Yangtze, Yellow, and Lancang rivers. Situated at an average altitude exceeding 4,700 meters, Sanjiangyuan National Park is the highest national park worldwide, spanning an impressive area of 190,700 square kilometers. It boasts an extraordinary concentration of biodiversity at high altitudes.
Each year, tens of thousands of pregnant Tibetan antelopes migrate to Hoh Xil around May to give birth, departing with their offspring by late July. During the 1980s and 1990s, rampant poaching decimated the Tibetan antelope population in Hoh Xil, leaving fewer than 20,000 individuals. However, thanks to China’s proactive measures against poaching and commitment to biodiversity preservation, Hoh Xil is now home to over 70,000 Tibetan antelopes. Consequently, the conservation status of Tibetan antelopes in China has been downgraded from “endangered” to “near threatened.”
Since the establishment of the Longbao national nature reserve in the Sanjiangyuan area in 1984, the number of bird species in the reserve has surged from 30 to 138. Notably, the reserve has witnessed a substantial increase in the population of black-necked cranes, a species granted first-class national protection. Their numbers have risen from a few dozen to over 200. Additionally, the reserve has seen over 10,000 bar-headed geese at its peak. This year, the reserve received international recognition as a “wetland of international importance.” Consequently, its ecosystem and biodiversity will undergo comprehensive and systematic protection.
Namse Township in Qinghai’s Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, also part of the Sanjiangyuan area and traversed by the Lancang River, is renowned as the “hometown of snow leopards.” This distinction arises from frequent sightings of this highly protected species, which enjoys the highest level of national protection in China. Namse is home to more than 80 individual snow leopards, coexisting with other wildlife such as lynx and white-lipped deer.
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Tian Jian, the chief engineer of Qinghai Province’s forestry and grassland bureau, reports that 85 percent of wildlife habitats in the province are now managed for natural conservation, resulting in a significant increase in the population of rare and endangered wild animals.
Over the past decade, noteworthy strides have also been made in the protection and research of rare and endangered wild plants in Qinghai, according to Zhang Yu, an official with the provincial bureau. With the establishment of a natural reserve system centered around national parks, more than 75 percent of wild plants in the province have been effectively safeguarded. These efforts contribute to the creation of a national gene bank, preserving the genetic resources of wild organisms on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.