China is setting up a mega national park that will rival the Yellowstone National Park of the United States with an area more than 60 percent of the latter. The vast national park will serve as a sanctuary to protect two endangered species — the Siberian tiger and Amur leopard.
The national park, modeled on the lines of national parks in the United States, will be located on the border of Russia and North Korea at northeast China’s Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces.
The park will cover an area of 14,600 square kilometers (5,600 square miles) and will be 60 percent bigger than Yellowstone in the United States, which is close to 4,000 square miles in terms of area.
Chinese media reported that the plan for the national park has been approved by the central authorities and the “comprehensive plan and pilot for the national park is expected to be carried out before 2020.”
Threat To Siberian Tigers
Notwithstanding the conservation efforts, the number of wild Siberian tigers just increased from 9 in 1998, to 27 in 2015, indicating that the numbers were not encouraging to make the species thrive.
To tighten conservation, China has clamped a ban on logging with curbs on gun licenses. Compared with China’s concerns on falling numbers of Siberian tigers, some 400 of them are living in Russia.
Amur leopards are another endangered species whose numbers plunged below 30 in 2007 because of hunting and human activities.
According to latest data, in 2015, their numbers showed some increase and conservation groups like the World Wildlife Fund can take credit for that.
In an update, the WWF said the Amur leopard population had a jump since 2008.
China’s Ecological Initiatives
China decided to start national parks in 2013 after seeing that many endangered species including the Siberian tiger, Amur leopard, giant panda, Tibetan antelope, and Asian elephant required safer habitats.
The Chinese government wanted to develop a national park system of international standards and it roped in Paulson Institute, a Chicago-based research center in 2015.
The government also announced a three-year period to start a series of pilot national park projects in nine provinces. The goal was to address the governance and policy shortfalls in environmental protection while extending conservation efforts to other habitats and ecosystems.
President Xi Jinping has committed a series of environmental reforms to usher in an “ecological civilization,” which clubs economic progress with the sustainability of the environment.
Green Activists Hail National Park
Meanwhile, environmentalists like Dale Miquelle of the Wildlife Conservation Society has welcomed the move. He said the sanctuary will be one of the largest tiger reserves in the world.
“China’s commitment represents an extremely important step in recovering both subspecies in northeast Asia,” Miquelle said.
However, the park is also raising concerns of many urban colonies at Hunchun city in the Jilin province, which is very close to the animals’s range.
Hunchun is a key corridor linking tiger habitats of Russia and China. There the residents are uneasy about the animals getting too close.
In 2016, a Forestry Department spokesman mentioned about a plan to relocate some communities and factories from the national park area to avoid conflict between wildlife and human activities.
According to Fan Zhiyong, WWF’s species program director in Beijing, the park will be a boon to the endangered cats and also protect the unique biodiversity of the northern temperate zone.
Attractions Of Yellowstone Park
In the United States, the Yellowstone National Park is spread across the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.
It covers an area of 3,468.4 square miles (8,983 km2) and comprises lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges. The Yellowstone Lake is a high-elevation lake centered around the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano in North America.
The National Park is home to thousands of species including mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles, many of which are endangered. The vast forests also house many unique species of plants.