Friday, 6 November 2009

Slight change

Dear All,

The more keen eyed among you may have seen a change to this blog - we are now concerning ourselves with snow leopards across China, not just Xinjiang. Xinjiang remains very special to us and we are continuing our work there, it's just that we are being encouraged by the Chinese authorities to include other provinces in our project. This is very encouraging and shows that partaking of all the baijiu has won us friends. Oh, and we're also very good at what we do...

Kun and I paid a visit to Sichuan in the summer and were delighted to find signs of snow leopard in Wolong Biosphere Reserve and giant panda hang-out. We have support from the local forestry administration and hope to survey areas on the eastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in the coming winter, so expect more boring discussion of warm clothing and ice! Excitingly, the Sichuan Forestry Administration have taken some photos of snow leopards using remote camera traps and I hope to be able to post these up soon.

Cheers m'dears,

What's mine is yours

Having expended significant effort, money and time to surveying remote and difficult areas in Taxkurgan Nature Reserve, we have learned that one of the most significant areas we found for snow leopard is to have a road put through it for mining traffic. This news has been received with a mixture of views. On the one hand many within the local communities welcome the anticipated financial income that they hope will results from jobs involved with both building the road and the mining itself. Others are pleased that the proposed road may improve access to more remote grazing for their livestock. Some are concerned about the potential influx of people into the area, although other more entrepreneurial people see this as an opportunity for business.
No one, with the exception of our team of course, is concerned about possible environmental degradation and increased threats to biodiversity, including snow leopards.
I’m not surprised: I’ve been in this game for long enough now not to clutchingly hold onto na├»ve sentiments. It places the concerns of conservationists in stark contrast against the immediate needs of the people that are unwillingly placed in the role of environmental custodians. I cannot offer compelling arguments against short-term improvements in human wellbeing within these communities, other than to offer the longer term view of a world devoid of natural space and the loss of much of our valued wildlife. Yes, people DO value biodiversity (well, some of it), but tend not to equate short-term gains on one side with long-term loss on the other.
What to do? Well, we are ensuring that we are an enthusiastic partner within the consortium concerned with the development these communities. We will continue to offer opinions and advise that maximise the gains for the people in these areas, but minimise the environmental costs incurred. Above all we will seek to ensure that the wildlife that people value so much, such as the snow leopard, are always in the minds of people making these decisions.