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Get to know the villagers who defend biodiversity at the very top of the world

Dangwen is from Yunta Dangwen, a village within Sanjiangyuan, Qinghai Province on the Tibetan Plateau. Sanjiangyuan Sanjiangyuan, which is a region of 400,000 square kilometers that is a significant habitat for a unique and rich biodiversity, and is a watershed for the three major rivers of Asia which are which are the Yellow, Yangtze and Mekong that serve more than one billion people living downstream.

Dangwen isn’t formally a activist or researcher. However, he has taken on himself the responsibility of monitoring local wildlife, along with a group of other villager villagers within a conservation initiative that is managed by Shanshui Conservation Center, a non-governmental group based in Beijing.

A pilot village for conservation

A mining firm attempted to explore the area nearly one year prior to when monitors of the wildlife within the area was initiated. The locals were greatly disturbed since mining the mountains would be incompatible with the spiritual principles that are the foundation of Tibetan Buddhism and put their lives in danger.

So when Shanshui, a non-governmental organization, presented to the Shanshui NGO in 2013 organizing villager groups to monitor the wildlife and safeguard their land, Dangwen volunteered without hesitation. As a child of the village, he’s well-versed in the area as well as the river and wildlife, and is particularly happy about these sacred mountains which surround them. The fourth time that Yunta village residents have conducted this kind of monitoring and patrolled the village to look out for poachers, and also managed the garbage to keep the area and the rivers in good condition.

Monitoring data show that the populations of local wildlife incl,ude snow leopards, are growing. The local authorities officially approved the conservation practice of the villager – their stories have been covered through China Central Television – and the mining company did not return.

Inspiration for the Tibetan Plateau

Inspired by Yunta, The four villages around started their wildlife monitoring along with anti-poaching patrols. With the support of local authorities A village-based conservation network is being created in Tongtianhe Valley. Tongtianhe Valley.

Awarded the status of a conservation priority within China, the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve was created in 2003. It was designated as a national park. However, the park faces major conservation issues: the government agencies have a limited amount of resources to manage the vast area, and the rights to graze all the grasslands in the region were handed over to private households in the 1990s.

This implies that conservation in Sanjiangyuan is not possible without the help of the local Tibetan communities. As Buddhists are a part of these communities, they recognize the importance of respecting nature and caring for living creatures. The sacred land system they have is remarkably similar to the contemporary protected zones.

This makes them natural allies in conservation. The experience of Yunta has shown that with the right training, the villagers could become skilled conservationists. They are basically providers of ecological services, and they should benefit from conservation in exchange.

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Jane S. King

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