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Woman keeps 50-year ties with deer
update:November 18,2022
LHASA — Though it has been seven years since Changchub Lhamo retired, the former ranger often returns to the vast grassland to visit her "ungulate friends."
The 67-year-old member of the Tibetan ethnic group used to work at the Riwoche National Nature Reserve in Riwoche county in the city of Chamdo, Southwest China's Tibet autonomous region. Covering 1,206 square kilometers, the reserve was set up to protect red deer, a species under second-class national protection.
The bond between Changchub Lhamo and the red deer dates back over 50 years, after she saved three fawns in the wild when she was 15 years old.
"I found them while farming in the field. I waited all day without seeing their parents, so I decided to take them home to protect them from predators or starving to death," she recalled.
Even though her family was not well-off at the time, she spared some barley for the fawns and fed them yak milk. At night, she cuddled them while they slept to keep them warm.
The three fawns grew healthily under her meticulous care, and one of them was even named for her. Two years later, Changchub Lhamo released them into the wild. "I was reluctant to part with them, but I knew that nature was their home," she said.
During the first winter after their release, Changchub Lhamo was surprised to find the three red deer returning, followed by several others.
Later, the local government allocated pasture for the deer to graze during winter and hired Changchub Lhamo as a ranger. The Riwoche Red Deer Nature Reserve was established in 1993, and upgraded to national facility status in 2005.
Duan Shichang, from the county's forestry and grassland administration, said the local government spends more than 200,000 yuan ($28,000) on fodder every year to help red deer survive the winter, while monitoring stations, patrol trails and veterinary stations have also been built. Thanks to the protective measures, the red deer population in the reserve has risen from more than 1,000 in the 1990s to about 3,000.
Changchub Lhamo's two sons are now among the nine rangers who work at the reserve. The rangers observe the deer, carry out regular patrols and rescue injured animals.
"I will continue to follow in mom's footsteps and make a contribution to wildlife protection," said Changchub Lhamo's son, Rinchen Tsephel, who has been working at the reserve for six years.
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