Monthly Archives: January 2012

Launch of Special Journal Issue on ‘Wildlife and Pastoralism’

UNEP, 2012

Rangelands cover 69% of the world’s agricultural land and around 40% of all global land surfaces, providing habitats for domestic livestock, and a diversity of wild plants and animals. However, a general perception exists that there is unfavourable competition between wildlife and livestock production. This view has led to policies and programmes that increasingly segregate the two sectors, often resulting in political and economic conflict between pastoralists and others.

As global incomes rise, demand is accelerating for livestock products such as meat, dairy and fibres, leading to strong economic incentives to intensify livestock production in the rangelands. Livestock intensification is also promoted as a means to prevent destruction of natural habitat. However, recent research shows that intensification is increasingly degrading extensive pastures and rangelands, and can lead to loss of biodiversity with impacts on both wildlife management and pastoralism, in high income as well as low income countries. Intensive livestock production generates higher levels of green house gases and nutrient pollution compared to extensive pastoralism. Intensively produced meats have higher fat content, leading to greater concerns over human health in developed and developing countries.

Community Ecotourism on the Tibetan Plateau

Marc Foggin, 2012

Over the past several months, many of our team members have been engaged in advancing our
community ecotourism project, which aims to support communities’ economic development in
one of the largest nature reserves in the world. Simultaneously, local people are involved in the
conservation of the grassland ecosystems and of rare and endangered wildlife species.

But why have we chosen to be involved with ‘ecotourism’ in the first place? In short, following
the earthquake that devastated the Yushu area in April 2010, we initially assisted with disaster
relief including medical work and the provision of basic supplies. However after several months
we agreed with local colleagues, friends and government authorities on a longer-term response,
which includes two main elements: the development of rehabilitation services in Yushu Tibetan
Autonomous Prefecture, and livelihood recovery with creation of new opportunities, particularly
in the developing tourism sector.

Recently we asked our 9 year old son, Alistair, how he would describe community ecotourism.
As part of a school assignment, he wrote: “Community ecotourism is tourism which protects the
environment and helps the local people. Ecotourism is good for getting money to give it to the
locals, protecting the environment and saving the wildlife. It is also good for protecting the
endangered species such as: Wild yak, Snow leopard and Lynx. I think it would be fun to teach
the tourists how to ride horses at the horse races and show them the wildlife on the grasslands. It
would also be fun to teach the tourists how to herd yak with slingshots and to raft down rivers. It
would help the environment to burn trash and recycle what can be recycled.” We believe he has
captured the essence of what may be achieved by ecotourism, if it is done properly!

Toward this end, our project is now working at several levels simultaneously. At a grassroots
level we are assisting several communities to develop their experiential ‘tourism products’ and
their marketing plans. We also are supporting the development of rural financing mechanisms in
the form of herders’ cooperatives and community trust funds. With several partners at provincial
level, we equally are aiming to see the launch of a Qinghai Ecotourism Network before the end
of the year; and to assist in this we are currently planning a study tour to Nepal that is focused on
community-oriented tourism – in particular to promote a mindset of ‘tourism for development’
and ‘tourism for conservation’. Finally, at a policy level we also are directly contributing to a
new approach for conservation in China known as community co-management, in which local
communities are recognized as partners, not enemies, of conservation and regional development.
We believe that adopting such an integrated approach to community development – integrating
local livelihoods and economics with biodiversity conservation, local participation and equity –
is a significant, practical way in which we can serve our global neighbours and steward creation.

Researchers Conduct Survey of Wild Chinese Herbs on Rural Tibetan Plateau

Tyler Smith, 2012

Researchers recently completed a 6-year effort in which they documented more than 1,000 wild herbs in the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve on the Tibetan plateau in Qinghai Province, China. The scientists identified 575 varieties of medicinal herbs—six of which were previously unknown to the area—and captured more than 100,000 photographs of local flora. The Sanjiangyuan region (translated as “Three Rivers’ Source”) comprises the headwaters of the Yellow, Yangtze, and Mekong Rivers. The greater Tibetan plateau has been described as the “Third Pole” or the “Roof of the Earth” in terms of ecological importance.

The multi-year survey is part of a strategy of the Chinese government to protect and conserve the fragile region, which in recent years has been impacted negatively by climate change and excessive herding. The wild herb conservation project is one aspect of China’s Great Western Development Strategy, an initiative that took effect in 2005 to improve less-developed regions in rural western China. In 2011, China invested 1 billion yuan (approximately $160 million USD) to protect the environment of the Sanjiangyuan region, according to an article from China Daily.

As part of the development plan, “[The Chinese Academy of Sciences] will select … species with promising potential and significant research value, especially plants that are important in the agricultural, pharmaceutical, and industrial fields and that could be put into industrial production,” the organization mentions on its website. “Together with the ongoing drive to standardize medicinal herbs in Chinese traditional medicine [and] comprehensively utilize Tibetan traditional medicine, … the academy will make efforts to find drugs that are highly effective against major diseases.”