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In order to effectively protect, develop and appropriately utilize wildlife animal and plant resources from the grass roots, at the end of 2001 the State Forestry Administration implemented the Wildlife protection and nature reserve development program, the wildlife animal and plant protection entered a new period of rapid development. 

Rapid development of wildlife protection

Firstly, up to 2004 the government has implemented a total number of 202 wildlife protection and rescue projects, including 143 projects of wildlife animal protection and 59 projects of wildlife plant protection. The projects covered not only the 15 priority species for protection and rescue identified by the overall program plan, but also the establishment of seed source (breeding) bases, development of resource monitoring system, development of bird-banding network, gene conservation centers. Secondly, specific conservation plans were developed for 15 species, namely Giant Panda, Crested ibis, Tiger, Golden monkey, Tibetan antelope, Yangtze alligator, Asian Elephant, Gibbon, Musk deer, Przewalski\’s Gazelle, wild deers, Cranes, wild Pheasants, Orchid plants and Cycas. According to comments by an expert review, further revisions and improvements were made to the specific protection rescue plan. 

In order to guide and push forward wildlife protection rescue in different region. Thirdly, 40 wildlife protection projects were approved with a total investment of RMB 296.63 million (including RMB 171.75 million from the central government and RMB 124.88 million from local counterpart funds) including 31 wildlife animal protection projects with a total investment of RMB 237.05 million (RMB 135.6 million from central government, RMB 101.45 million from local counterpart funds), and 9 projects of wildlife plant protection with a total investment of RMB 59.58 million (RMB 36.15 million by the central government, RMB 23.43 million by the local counterpart funds). Fourthly, investments were completed for 29 wildlife animal and plant protection projects and partly completed for 3 projects. The accumulative investment from the government was RMB 133.78 million, accounting for 77.89% of the total investment plan. The completed investment include RMB 104.97 million from the government for the wildlife animal protection projects and RMB 28.61 million for wildlife plant protection projects. Fifthly, the artificially bred population sizes of some endangered species have been significantly expanded, preliminarily reliving the risk of extinction and gradually returning to natural state. For example, the population of Crested Ibis expanded from 7 individuals at discovery in 1982 to more than 700 individuals presently, and the field population reached more than 370 individuals. The population of artificially bred Yangtze alligator reached more than 10,000 individuals, and an experiment on reintroduction to nature was succeeded in 2003. The population of Hainan eld’s deer (Cervus eldi hainanus) increased from 26 individuals in the 1970s to about 1,600 individuals at present. By means of program implementation; the animals have been spread from field to mountains such as Ganshiling Mountain and Mihouling Mountain. Other species such as wild horse and elk have been successfully reintroduced into the nature.  

Protection of Giant panda significantly intensified

By many years of joint efforts by all levels of government, relevant agencies and all sectors of the community, the severe situation the Giant panda was facing has been improved to some extents. According to the third national inventory of Giant panda, the animals were distributed in 45 counties (municipalities, districts) of 16 prefectures (municipalities, autonomous prefectures) in 3 provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu, with a habitat area of larger than 23,000 km2, and more than 1,590 individuals in the wild. The scope of distribution has been expanded to a certain extent, the habitat conditions have been improved and the population size has been rising while maintaining stability. The number of Giant panda nature reserves reached 40, these nature reserves put about 45% of the habitat and more than 60% of the Giant panda under protection. All of the 3 provinces have established institutions for Giant panda protection and management, the protection and management system are becoming improved day by day. More than 3,000 people across the country are engaged in Giant panda protection.  

Significant achievements in nature reserve development

Up to 2004, the forestry sector in China had established 1,672 nature reserves including all types of ecosystems and wildlife animals and plants, with a total area of 119 million ha accounting for 12.4% of the total land area of China, preliminarily forming a nature reserve network with rational distribution, wide coverage and complete functions.  

1)Great progress has been made in nature reserve development, key ecosystems and wildlife animals and plants with national priority for protection have been under effective protection. During the 4 years of program implementation since 2001, the forestry sector in China has established 763 new nature reserves in total, equivalent to 4/5 of the total number of nature reserves established during the more than 40 years before the program implementation, making 85% of terrestrial ecosystem types, 85% of the populations of wildlife animals and 65% of the communities of higher plants, 20% of natural forests and 40% of natural wetlands in China under effective protection. These natural resources and ecosystems with the richest biodiversity, the strongest ecological functions and the most urgent need for protection with the highest priority play extremely important roles in maintaining ecological security and optimizing ecological environment. Moreover, more than 50,000 sub nature reserves have been established in different places according to local conditions, with a total area of more than 1.5 million ha, protecting forest ecosystems, wetlands, wildlife animals and plants together with their habitats, ancient trees, cultural relics and natural landscapes in local areas, which supplement with the nature reserves to form an effective protection system of nature reserves.

2)A relative complete system of nature reserve protection, management and law enforcement has taken initial shape. Currently, all levels of forestry authorities have set up functional institutions responsible for the works of nature reserves, and intensified the buildup of institutions of nature reserves. The protection and management system, resource inventory and monitoring system, research support system, law enforcement system, propaganda and training system and network based information management system have been preliminarily established for the national nature reserves, with available functioning, staffed and well funded institutions. 85% of local nature reserves have also established management institutions. Currently, the total number of full time employees of all levels of nature reserves reached 30,000, plus the part time employees for nature reserve protection, the total number comes to 50,000, forming a complete management system for the nature reserves of forestry sector. In addition, local level forestry agencies have strengthened the buildup of forest police teams for nature reserves by establishing forestry public security bureaus, sub bureaus or police stations in national nature reserves and corresponding police stations in local level nature reserves, together with nature reserve patrols to form a strong resource protection team, effectively maintaining local social security and avoiding occurrences of illegal hunting and destruction of forest resources.

3)A complete research and monitoring support system was formed. By many years of efforts, a number of research institutions for wildlife protection and nature reserve development with well equipped facilities, full converge of scientific disciplines and well qualified research teams have been established, many achievements have been obtained in both basic and applied studies in nature reserves. The State Forestry Administration has set up a multi disciplinary and cross agency “Chinese association of nature reserve studies” participated by well known experts and scholars from related disciplines, and established a national level “Center for nature reserve studies” and an expert review and consultation committee for nature reserves of forestry sector consisting of well know experts in China from various disciplines. The committee provides guidance and verification to applications for establishment, upgrading and overall planning of nature reserves, and activities such as major constructions within nature reserves. Assisted by research institutions and their staffs, a national nature reserve management information platform has been established, using technologies of computer networks, databases and GIS for internet based, standardized and scientific management of nationwide nature reserves of the forestry sector and for providing timely, dynamic, scientific and accurate information for decision making and management measures.

4)Promotion of harmonious development of human and nature and formation of social atmosphere for ecological civilization. China’s nature reserves have become the physical carrier of advanced culture due to their good ecological environment and possessions of rich biodiversity and played important roles in creating a good social atmosphere of ecological civilization. Many nature reserves have become important places for education of ecological ethics, publicizing of human and nature coexistence and dissemination of knowledge of natural sciences. Currently, more than 150 nature reserves have been listed as bases for education and dissemination of scientific knowledge, ecological education and patriotism education. According to statistics, the nature reserves have received more than 30 million visits per year, playing an important role in disseminating scientific knowledge, carrying out education on biodiversity conservation, and promoting advances of ecological civilization of the society. A large number of nature reserves such as Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan, Xishuangbanna in Yunnan and Taibai Mountain in Shaanxi have become China’s well known ecotourism and education bases.

5)A good international image of caring about ecological protection was established and international cooperation and exchange in biodiversity conservation were promoted. Chinese government has always been engaged in protection of natural ecosystems and ecological environment, as a highly populated developing country, the proportion of nature reserve areas to the total national land area has come to the level of advanced countries, making contribution to global ecological and environment protection and receiving appreciations from the international community. Currently, 25 nature reserves such as Wuyishan Mountain in Fujian, Elong in Sichuan have joined the “human and biosphere” nature reserve network of the UNESCO, and 21 nature reserves such as Zhalong in Heilongjiang, Poyang Lake in Jiangxi have been included in the list of wetlands with international significances. Other 9 nature reserves have been listed as the world natural heritage. A large number of nature reserves have become the key sites of global significance for biodiversity conservation. The nature reserves of Xingkai Lake, Dalai Lake and Jinping Watershed have established cross border sister nature reserves, promoting cooperation in nature reserve.  

Significant progress in wetland protection

Firstly, the State Council issued a “notice on strengthening wetland protection and management” in the beginning of 2004, in June of the same year, the State Forestry Administration held a national wetland protection and management working meeting to make specific arrangements for wetland protection and management in the new situation. Secondly, since the inception of the program in 2001, the wetland protection and restoration projects completed an investment of about RMB 67.5 million, implemented 11 wetland protection and restoration projects with wide implications by demonstration, namely land conversion from farmland back to wetland in Anbang River of Heilongjiang, wetland protection and restoration of Honghu Lake in Hubei, wetland protection and restoration of south Dongting Lake in Hunan, Liangzi Lake wetland protection and restoration in Hubei, Eutrophication control in Wuliangsuhai lakes in Inner Mongolia, Wetland ecological restoration in east beaches of Chongming island of Shanghai, wetland protection and restoration of Hongze Lake in Jiangsu, education center in Lashihai Lake of Yunnan, Ningxia wetland protection and restoration, wetland protection and restoration in Hengshui Lake of Hebei, and Jiangxi provincial education and propaganda center. Thirdly, the “National wetland protection program plan” was formulated. Led by the State Forestry Administration and participated by 10 ministries of the State Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Land Resources, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Water Resources, the Ministry of Construction, the State Environment Protection Administration, the State Oceanic Administration, the formulation of “National wetland protection program plan (2004-2030)” was completed. The “plan” was formally approved by the State Council in 2003. This is an important milestone of wetland protection in China. Fourthly, the first large-scale nationwide wetland resource inventory since the foundation of new China completed in 2003 involved 31 provinces (autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the central government) except Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, for the first time made clear about the status of wetland resources in China, identified various severe threats to wetland protection and management and their root causes, investigated in full higher plants in all wetlands across the country, rare wetland plants, and compositions of resources, geographic distributions, and habitat conditions of amphibians, reptiles, birds, beasts, and fishes, filling in the gaps in basic data of wetlands in China. Fifthly, the active implementation of the “wetland convention” upgraded the image of the China. Since the accession to the “wetland convention” in 1992, China has actively implemented the obligations and responsibilities defined by the convention, particularly since the start of implementation of the 6 major forestry programs, a great deal of excellent work has been done. In January of 2002, based on the 7 existing wetlands of international significances, other 14 wetlands such as south Dongting Lake have been included in the list of internationally significant wetlands, and the total number of internationally significant wetlands came to 21, with a total area of 3.03 million ha. In 2002, the World Wildlife Fund awarded the yearly honor of “the gift to earth” to the Zhou Shengxian, the Administrator of the State Forestry Administration for China’s achievements in wetland protection, this was the first one awarded to a Chinese. At the 8th conference of the parties of the “wetland convention”, the Chinese delegation succeeded in revising decisions unfavorable to China, protecting national interests. Meanwhile, China took the lead to promote the adoption of “decision on intensifying plateau wetland protection” at the COP 8, laying a firm foundation of future cooperation and development in the field.  

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