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Patrollers protect calves of Tibetan antelope
By:China Daily Global
update:November 15,2021

Tibetan antelopes recuperate at the wildlife rescue center at the Sonam Dargye Protection Station in Hoh Xil, Qinghai province, on Sept 28. YAN FUJING/XINHUA

XINING-Every misty, late-autumn morning in Hoh Xil, on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, patroller Sidegya gets up early, puts on his hat and gloves and heads to the wildlife rescue center at the Sonam Dargye Protection Station, which has become known as the "kindergarten of baby Tibetan antelopes".
Each May, pregnant Tibetan antelopes start to migrate to Hoh Xil to give birth, returning to their original habitats with their calves around August.
During the migration, some calves fall behind and get separated from the herd. Those left behind are sent to the wildlife rescue center.
"When I was patrolling the mountains around Zonag Lake at the Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve last year, I found several lost antelopes and brought them back to the station," Sidegya, 27, said as he deftly unlocked a gate in a fence and approached seven Tibetan antelopes for a closer look. "It's become a routine now to check on them every morning.
"Considering the drastic temperature difference between day and night since October, we built a special 'room' covered with grass and quilts and surrounded by windshields, where the animals can escape the cold."
Sidegya has spent six years working in Hoh Xil, where Tibetan antelopes are thriving thanks to the country's anti-poaching and biodiversity protection efforts.
Poaching once drove the species to the edge of extinction, with the population dropping from 200,000 to 20,000 during the 1980s, when they were hunted for the fine shahtoosh wool used to make expensive shawls. It took three to five antelope fleeces to make each shawl, which could sell for as much as $50,000.
To curb the rampant slaughter of Tibetan antelopes and save them from extinction, Qinghai province set up the Hoh Xil provincial-level nature reserve in 1996, and it was upgraded to a State-listed reserve in 1997.
Since 1992, more than 100 patrollers have put down roots in Hoh Xil.
"Now, a total of 63 patrollers are fighting on the front lines of ecological protection in the region, of whom young people born in the 1980s and 1990s account for 90 percent," said Buchou, director of the Sanjiangyuan (Three-River-Source) National Park management bureau's Hoh Xil management office.
Thanks to the anti-poaching campaign and the ban on illegal hunting, Hoh Xil is now home to more than 70,000 Tibetan antelopes.
According to the reserve, not a single gunshot has been heard in the reserve since 2009, and it is now free from poachers.
In August, the status of Tibetan antelopes in China was improved from "endangered" to "near threatened", the National Forestry and Grassland Administration said.
"Although the population of the animal has recovered steadily, more than 10 large-scale mountain patrols take place annually," Buchou said.
The living conditions in the area are extreme, with oxygen levels at an average elevation of over 4,600 meters likely to be 55 percent below those on lower plains.
In July, Sidegya found two Tibetan antelope calves in need of help-one was stuck in a crack, and the other was trapped by water and was too scared to move.
On the way back to the protection station after rescuing the animals, Sidegya's motorcycle broke down and things got even worse when rain started to suddenly pour down.
"To prevent the calves from getting wet, I wrapped them in clothes and held them in my arms, walking dozens of kilometers," he said. "It was totally dark when we returned to the station.
"It's never an easy job but whenever I see the animal running happily, I feel it's all worth it."

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