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China to Build a Massive National Park Bigger Than Yellowstone to House Endangered Big Cats

Mar 17, 2017 05:05 PM EDT
Siberian tiger
Siberian tigers have suffered through long decades in China, but now they're getting a sprawling protected park in the country.
(Photo : Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

China is planning to build a sprawling national park 60 percent bigger than Yellowstone National Park, meant to be a much-needed sanctuary to highly-endangered cats Siberian tiger and Amur leopard.

According to a report from Xinhua News, the park will stretch 14,600 square kilometers in the northeastern provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang, bordering Primorsky in Russia.

Wildlife in this region have suffered following excessive logging back in the 1950s. In particular, the population of Siberian tigers plummeted to near extinction with a field survey finding only 6 to 9 individual tigers left in the area in 1998. Efforts to save the species helped nurse the population back with the current population now reaching about 27 Siberian tigers in Jilin.

Meanwhile, Amur leopards in the wild dwindled to as low as 30 individual creatures left in the wild in 2007. Due to conservation efforts, the number more than doubled by 2015, according to a report from World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Lack of space remain one of the problems holding back the growth of the numbers of tigers and leopards, so the national park is important to help keep the endangered cats thriving.

WWF Beijing Species Program Director Fan Zhiyong explained that the project will not only link the different wildlife protection areas in the region, but it will also pave the way for more comprehensive China-Russia cooperation in wildlife protection.

Aside from helping the endangered tigers and leopards grow in number, Fan added that the park will be also be significant in protecting the biodiversity in the northern temperate zone. Along with a monitoring and rescue center, there will be scientific and research facilities within the park as well.

Preliminary work is expected to begin by the end of 2017, while a comprehensive plan and pilot for the national park will be implemented by 2020.

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