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08:30 Jan 24 2011

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Tibetan antelope population hits 200,000 in Tibet: researcher
08:30, January 24, 2011  

The population of Tibetan antelopes, once a critically-endangered species, has risen to 200,000 in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, a specialist on plateau forestry studies said Friday.

Liu Wulin, president of the Forestry Survey and Planning Institute in Tibet, said the figure was calculated on the basis of a precise census carried out in 2006, and an average annual growth rate of 7 percent.

In the 2006 census, Liu and his team found about 150,000 Tibetan antelopes in a 710,000-square-km area in Tibet.

The team of 119 researchers had studied the species and the plateau ecology for 18 years, focusing on antelope habitats, distribution, natural enemies, food, population density, migration, reproduction and growth rate, said Liu.

Their research project won national award for scientific development this year.

Tibet used to have millions of Tibetan antelopes, but excessive hunting and human encroachment on their habitat caused their population to plummet in recent decades.

International traffickers hunted the antelopes to make shahtoosh shawls, a luxury item that required three to five pieces of antelope fur to make just one shawl.

Since 1979, the animal has been recognized as an endangered species and protected under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species.

Tibet tightened supervision and patrols of antelope habitats in 1998.

Tibetan antelopes are mostly found in Tibet, Qinghai Province and the western part of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

About 80 percent of the total population live in northern Tibet, while the remaining 20 percent roam the Hoh Xil, China's largest uninhabited area in neighboring Qinghai Province.

Source: Xinhua

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