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Milu reserve expanded to protect rare species

China Daily, March 23, 2023
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Milu enjoy their extended habitat at the Shishou Milu National Nature Reserve in Hubei province in October. LEI GANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

In 1991, when the reserve was set up to protect the species, it was designed to have an area of 1,567 hectares near the Yangtze River.

Later, the local government decided to incorporate surrounding barren land and farmland into the reserve, which saw it expand from 133 hectares to 1,034. In 2017, Shishou took over a further 533 hectares for the buffer zone. About 3,300 local farmers were compensated for the loss of their land.

Local farmer Liu Jigao, 47, used to make a living by driving a plowing tractor. In 2012, he was hired temporarily to clear weeds, and was later employed as a long-term patroller. Now, he grows ryegrass and wheat as food for the milu, checks the fences every day and sees if any of the animals are sick.

He wears Wellington boots during all four seasons, patrolling the reserve from 7 o'clock every morning until late in the day. "Farming is seasonal, but the reserve always has work for me, which provides me with more security," he said.

To help the milu adapt to the new home in the buffer zone, the reserve has hired eight workers to care for them. The new recruits maintain the environment, build supply stations, erect security fences and install monitoring equipment.

"It is a question of how we can maintain sustainable development of the milu when the reserve reaches maximum capacity," Yang said. "We have realized the first goal of stable growth of the population. For the next step, we are aiming to establish a quality gene bank for the species."

He added that in addition to the expansion of activity space, the reserve will also improve the wetland ecosystem, strengthen daily supervision, increase the scientific management and research capability, and deepen awareness of environmental protection among the public.

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