I have now entered my final week of work for Changqing Reserve. Not surprisingly, I am feeling a mixture of emotions leaving the place that has become home for me for some time now: Firstly sadness at leaving behind the Reserve, the community of Huayang that has freely welcomed me, my new Chinese friends, the simple way of life, the fresh air, long walks, local food and rice paddy viewed runs. However, I also leave with excitement about the next chapter in my life and more importantly hope for sections of China’s spectacular environment that have ‘survived’ a history of thousands of years, and are now being managed as reserves.
Upon reflection of this year it really struck me that the achievements, which have been made were due to successful co-operations. For example, the development of the Eco-tourism Action Plan, my main project, was instigated and funded by WWF China, managed by myself (a volunteer from Australia), developed by a team of local Changqing staff members, and the resultant actions based upon recommendations made by all levels of staff, community members, scientists, international experts, local government and previous volunteers. Likewise, the Reserve’s infrared cameras (as mentioned in a previous blog) are the result of a co-operation between Changqing National Nature Reserve, Dr Dajun Wang from Peking University, Shan Shui Conservation Centre and Conservation International.
However, going back a step, perhaps the most successful example of co-operation that I have heard about here has been the establishment of Changqing Reserve. So, at the risk of finishing my series of blogs with what perhaps I should have started them with, I thought I would share with you the history of Changqing National Nature Reserve (CNNR), as I have heard it, threw local verbal accounts, and bits and pieces of information I have gathered during my time here…
CNNR of the Qinling Mountains was formerly part of a logging and planting enterprise established in 1969, known as the Shaanxi Changqing Forestry Bureau (CFB). For years, commercial logging of the area provided large-scale local employment, however damaged and reduced the original native environment and introduced exotic tree species.
In 1958, Professor Zheng Guangmei of Beijing Normal University was taking a field class in the Qinling Mountains when he discovered a giant panda hide. The Qinling Mountains were officially confirmed as ‘giant panda habitat’ in 1964, with the publication of “Giant Panda Found in the South Slope of Qinling” in the Chinese Journal of Zoology. As a result of Professor Zheng Guangmei’s discovery, interest in the area from a conservation perspective increased. Foping Nature Reserve was established in 1978 (the first Qinling giant panda nature reserve), and in 1985 a professor called Pan Wenshi, a now well-known scientist, began his 13 year long research of the giant panda (1985-1998).
As a result of Professor Pan Wenshi’s work and lobbying, the Global Environment Fund (GEF) sent out an officer to visit the CFB. Their resultant recommendations were that the area be protected. Discussions between GEF and the Chinese Government resulted in a financial agreement, and in 1994 the Chinese Central Government outlawed timber production within this precious section of CFB owned land.
On December 22 of 1995 Shaanxi Changqing Provincial Nature Reserve was established, with a group of staff staying on to carrying out small-scale logging and forestry management. In May of 1997, in response to pressure by the scientific community who wished to protect the giant panda CNNR was established as a State Council sanctioned National Nature Reserve, with logging and timber processing banned.
No doubt this is only one small example of international and local co-operation leading to the further protection of important native flora and fauna species, however it is none the less a victory in the conservation movement that I will not forget anytime soon.
I wish to thank WildChina, Mei Zhang and Changqing Reserve for the opportunity to share my thoughts, experiences and stories relating to life here in rural China working with Changqing Reserve over the last six months.
Photo credit: Peking University
Changqing National Nature Reserve English Website: http://www.cqpanda.com/english/index.htm