Forest policemen have to cope with appalling weather conditions. (China Daily Photo)
Regarding the May 2007 patrol, five forestry officials left for the Changtang Nature Reserve, to help Forestry Bureau of the Tibet autonomous region shoot a publicity video on wildlife conservation.
The car broke down halfway and they had to hire five herdsmen, five horses, two motorcycles, and one tractor to proceed. Not long afterwards, the motorcycles and tractor too stopped functioning.
With only five horses to carry all their equipment, they had to drop the less important items one by one, and mark the places where they had buried them, for later retrieval. "We had to be most vigilant about the wild yaks, especially the calves," Jigme says.
It took them a month to finally arrive at the reserve. But its poetic beauty left a deep impression on Jigme. "Standing on top of a hill, I looked down and saw so many animals in the valley: antelopes, wild yaks and brown bears," he says. "It was so beautiful."
For Jigme and his colleagues, enduring the rigors of the wilderness during patrols - such as living on dried meat and instant noodles boiled in melted ice water and spending nights in threadbare tents - is par for the course.
But not all patrols have happy endings. In fact, most don't. Shortly before Jigme began to work in Nagqu prefecture, a fellow policeman died from poachers' gunfire.
Every time the forestry officials set off, Jigme says, the families hold a farewell dinner and present them with hada (a piece of long white gauze that Tibetans give to honored guests for good luck), with a clear understanding that the journey might come to an unwelcome end.
"We face similar situations to those shown in Lu Chuan's film Kekexili: Mountain Patrol; only we are even more poorly equipped," he says.
Jigme's wife works in the local hospital, but his 1-year-old son is under the care of the grandfather at Shannan.
Aside from cracking down on poaching, the forestry officials take advantage of contact with the herdsmen to publicize wildlife conservation.
Hunting is a Tibetan tradition. But now most Tibetans will report to the police if they find evidence of poaching or carcasses in the wilderness; they now frighten off brown bears by setting off firecrackers, instead of using a gun.
When the second phase of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, Golmud-Lhasa section, which crosses the migration routes of the Tibetan antelope, became operational in July, 2006, many worried that it would affect the habitat of the antelope and other animals.
However, WCS scientist Schaller's observation confirms that the government has been successful in protecting the antelopes; the animals are often seen grazing near the railway tracks.
The number of Tibetan antelope, wild donkey, wild yak and other species in Nagqu has increased significantly, according to Schaller's observation.
Researchers spotted 60,000 Tibetan antelopes in just 20 days, during a survey conducted by Tibet's Forestry Bureau and other conservation and research organizations earlier this winter. The total number is estimated to exceed 100,000.
Also, according to Xie Yan, China Program director with WCS, while antelope in Nagqu would run when people were a kilometer away, now they can get to within 300 m of the animals.
"It is the dream of a wildlife protector to be able to watch a rare wild animal from up close and you can realize this in Nagqu," says Joel Berger, a senior scientist with WCS. Source: China Daily【1】 【2】