Interest in endangered wild cats surges
Photos of snow leopards and Chinese mountain cats sparked a surge in public interest in the two endangered species last week when a deputy from Qinghai province showed them to President Xi Jinping during the annual meeting of China's top legislature.
The two photos shown by Kong Qingju, a National People's Congress deputy from the northwestern province, were taken in the Qilian Mountain National Park in recent years.
Before the establishment of the park in 2017, Qinghai's wildlife had been seriously threatened by overgrazing, overdeveloped tourism, illegal mining and the general degradation of its vegetation dating back to the 1980s, with wildlife populations declining sharply, Kong said.
"Thanks to resolute environmental protection efforts from both the government and local people, the Qilian Mountains have been protected under the strictest rules and are now seeing larger green areas, fewer sandstorms and cleaner water," she said.
Qilian Mountain National Park was established as one of the country's 10 pilot national parks. It protects 50,200 square kilometers spanning the border of Qinghai and Gansu provinces, with roughly 15,800 sq km in Qinghai featuring forest, grassland, desert and wetland landscapes.
The ecosystem of the Qilian Mountains has been recovering steadily since the park was established, with the populations of some endangered species rebounding.
Animals not seen since the 1990s due to excessive hunting have been captured by infrared cameras several times in recent years. They include snow leopards and Chinese mountain cats, both listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
"Chinese mountain cats are the most mysterious wild animals and the only confirmed locations in the world are the provinces of Qinghai and Sichuan in China," said Zhang Yu, deputy director of the park's Qinghai management office.
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