Kekexili(Hoh Xil), which lies in the border areas of the Tibet Autonomous Region, qinghai Province and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, was founded in 1995, covers 45,000 square kilometers at an average elevation of 4,600 meters. It is home to many rare species including the Tibetan antelope, the yak,wild donkey and other plateau animals.
A Journey to Hoh Xil--A Diary of an Environmental Volunteer
Hoh Xil, which means "beautiful girl" in Mongolian, is one of the main sources of the Changjiang (Yangtze) River and encompasses an area of 83,000 square kilometers between the Tanggula and Kunlun Mountains in the northwestern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It is China's largest and the world's third largest uninhabited area. Despite its adverse climate, it is a paradise for wildlife and home to more than 230 species of wild animals, twenty of which are under state protection, including the wild yak, the Tibetan antelope, the wild donkey, the white-lip deer, and the brown bear.
Because of human interference though, Hoh Xil is suffering devastation; and a growing number of Tibetan antelopes and other rare animals have been killed. In order to strengthen the protection of Hoh Xil's natural environment, groups of volunteers, acting as environmental guards, have been sent to this area since May 2002. This article is an extract of the diary of Wang Ting, a professor at the Qingdao University of Science and Technology and one of the first volunteers to go to Hoh Xil. During his days with the volunteer program, Professor Wang not only kept a diary, but also captured exciting scenes with his camera.
The moment I was informed that I had been selected as a volunteer to safeguard the Tibetan antelope in Hoh Xil, I was extremely excited and couldn't wait to make preparations. Many of my alumni, friends, and students, who had heard the news, extended their congratulations by phone. They urged me over and over again to be careful; and some supported me generously with financial aid. My father, who had just turned 80 at the time, also called to encourage me to work wholeheartedly and not to worry about him. My wife withdrew almost all of our savings. Every person was doing something to show his/her support for the environmental-protection undertaking. I didn't stop teaching until the May 1st holiday, so I had to spend my spare time packing.
Being the eldest among my group and possessing past experiences on the plateau, I assumed the role of vanguard. Seeing that we were the first group of volunteers recruited by the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve from around the country, I was quite aware of our duty and of people's expectations of us.
At 6:00 p.m., on May 11th, we were assigned to different work units-the Ice-Free Spring Protection Station, the Wudaoliang Protection Station, the Tuotuo River Protection Station, and the Chonai Lake Protection Station, all of which can be found on a map. Together with another volunteer, I was assigned to a mountain patrol team. Our task was to patrol, at intervals, the uninhabited hinterland of Hoh Xil by truck. Each time the patrol team made its rounds, it traveled 2,000 kilometers and took 15 to 20 days to circle the hinterland. It's a real survival challenge: eating outdoors and sleeping in trucks.
Wang Zhoutai, head of the patrol team, told me this story: One day, their truck sank into a river, and they had to walk to a hot spring to evade the cold night air. The ground near the spring is very hot, giving off steam at times. That night though, they had a heavy snowfall. Sleeping on the ground, the patrolmen had to warm themselves by tossing and turning. When they got up the next morning, they looked as if they were wearing armor made of ice and snow. They made the 70-kilometer journey to camp on foot, making their way through the snow-carpeted ground. Almost everyone suffered from snow blindness and experienced its symptoms: sore eyes and fear of being exposed to light. "At that moment," said Wang Zhoutai, "we really felt homesick."
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