China largely expands scope of wildlife under state priority conservation

Pandas are playing at the Bifengxia base of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, Ya'an, southwest China's Sichuan Province, Feb. 24, 2021. (Photo by Liu Guoxing/People's Daily Online)

China recently unveiled a new list of wild animals under state priority conservation, according to a joint announcement by the country’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

The scope of protected wildlife is largely expanded in the new list. All animals that existed in the old version are kept in the new list, and 517 species and classes are newly added. The number is even more than the original in the former list.

Sixty-five wild animals, including jackals and narrow-ridged finless porpoises, are upgraded from the second level of national protection to first, while Assam macaques, Alpine ibexes and pythons, which were under first-level protection in the old list, are now under second level of national protection.

A total of 988 species and classes of wildlife are in the new list, including 234 species and 1 class under first-level national protection, as well as 746 species and 7 classes with second-level status.

Professor Zhang Wei from the College of Wildlife Resources and Protected Area, Northeast Forestry University of China, explained why China added so many species into the new list.

On one hand, he said, China has gained a greater capacity of species protection by constantly enhancing its efforts to safeguard biodiversity, so it is able to incorporate more species under its protection list.

In recent years, the country has accelerated the building of a nature reserve system with national parks as its main body, protecting a total of 11,800 natural reserves that cover 18 percent of the country’s land territory, which puts under protection 90 percent of vegetation types and terrestrial ecosystem, as well as 85 percent of animal species under priority conservation.

Besides, the country also stepped up efforts to strengthen protection for endangered wildlife, breeding stable populations for over 300 endangered species by artificial technologies.

On the other hand, as taxonomy develops, changes happened to the classification system of animals, Zhang explained. These changes were taken into consideration when the new list was compiled, so the scope of animals under protection has been expanded.

Animals listed under priority conservation will be better protected. The upgraded protection over species leads to increased investment, which is of vital significance for the recovery of animal population and habitats.

“The new version also listed the valuable and endangered species that were newly discovered or with new geographical distributions in China,” said Shi Kun, head of the Wildlife Institute and professor with the School of Ecology and Nature Conservation at Beijing Forestry University.

For example, white-cheeked macaques, sloth bears and red serows, which exist in small population or marginal distribution in southwest China, have important ecological functions, and need to be put under key protection, he said.

“Besides, Assam macaques, Alpine ibexes and pythons are degraded as they have stable population and are widely distributed. It’s a decision made upon scientific assessment and indicates the achievements of animal protection,” Shi added.

The major adjustment made to the protection list has no doubt raised higher requirements for the protection of wildlife. An NFGA official noted that the country will further enhance protection efforts, urge local governments to fulfill their responsibilities, ensure the safety of habitats of valuable and endangered species, and strengthen law enforcement and monitoring to crack down upon illegal practices.

In addition, the country will also launch more publicity activities to raise the public awareness for animal protection and guide the public to oppose illegal acts, so as to nurture a sound atmosphere of wildlife protection.

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