When Rare Pride Program Managers traveled to China’s Gaoligong Nature Reserve, the biggest threat to the region and to Hoolock gibbons was obvious: too many communities collecting too much fuelwood.
To mentor Pride campaign managers and support active campaigns throughout the world, Rare staff regularly travel to each Pride campaign site to monitor a campaign’s progress against its scheduled benchmarks. In February 2009, Rare Pride Program Managers Yu and Zhiyong visited Gaoligong Nature Reserve, where Rare, the Gaoligong Mountain Nature Reserve Management Bureau and The Nature Conservancy in China recently launched a Pride campaign led by Campaign Manager Duan Honglian. They were amazed to see the dramatic impact fuel wood collection had on this site, which provides habitat for many threatened species including the Hoolock gibbon. The gibbons are restricted to small patches of remaining habitat and are estimated at less than 150 individuals. With each family in the community collecting enough fuelwood to fortify massive piles (illustrated in the attached photo), it is easy to understand the abundance of barren areas on the hillsides of the reserve.
Yu and Zhiyong reported: “On top of a small hill, we could see the corridor reserve very well. The forest in this area was degraded due to rampant fuel wood collection. The three communities in this region -- Simenqian, Lizhai, and Shatian -- do not have any other available forest. They have to collect fuelwood from the reserve, despite the area being established as a nature reserve. Due to weak enforcement of regulations, the nature reserve staff cannot penalize these communities if they collect wood from the reserve.”
Local experts are so familiar with the biodiversity in the reserve that they can identify each of the gibbons based on their calls. They witness how destroying the forest impacts the wildlife, specifically the Hoolock gibbons. They report that gibbons have changed their seasonal habits, forfeiting movement to certain areas of the reserve since there are no more big trees to climb and hide in. This is a direct result of the forests being cleared for fuelwood.
Thanks to this Pride campaign’s supporters, Honglian finished conducting a threat assessment of her site, which identifies the site’s top conservation threats and issues as a result of extensive interviewing and group discussions with various community members, leaders and groups. She then ranked the threats that jeopardize Gaoligong’s resources and met with local leaders to gain their support of her Pride campaign. With input from partner organizations and Rare staff, Honglian is exploring strategies to reduce fuelwood collection as the campaign moves into its implementation phase. Utilizing alternative forms of energy including biogas is one option, but Honglian will consult with local experts for a suitable long-term solution to protect the communities’ environmental resources, and to protect the environment itself.
Honglian needs help from conservationists like you to continue inspiring conservation of natural resources and protect the Hoolock gibbon in Gaoligong Nature Reserve.