Chinese conservation project celebrates 10 years of success

10 July 2012

LJMU Programme Leader for Wildlife Conservation, Dr Simon Dowell, has recently returned from China where he celebrated 10 years as a coordinator of the Sichuan Forest Biodiversity Project.

Image of Broadleaf Forest in Laojunshan Nature Reserve, Sichuan Province, China This project, funded by Chester Zoo as part of their China Outreach Programme, supports capacity building for wildlife conservation in the home of the Giant Panda in China's Sichuan Province. Simon's interest in the wildlife of Sichuan goes back to the 1990s when he started his research on the globally endangered Sichuan Hill-partridge. In the early 2000s, a number of newly protected areas were established to protect the unique wildlife of this region, including the hill-partridge. Simon helped to set up the Sichuan Forest Biodiversity Project as a collaboration between Chester Zoo and the Sichuan Forest Department to provide technical and financial support to the staff employed to run four of these reserves.

Image of bear in remote mountainous areaSimon said:

"The reserves are in remote mountainous areas of Sichuan Province where they protect habitat for pandas and rare birds including the hill-partridge. We have encouraged the nature reserve staff to research and monitor their wildlife using a number of methods including electronic nest monitoring and camera traps. This year we were excited when a camera trap revealed the presence of the Asiatic Black Bear in one of the reserves where we had previously thought it had died out."

" The landscape is very beautiful but local people are poor and the reserves and their wildlife face a number of problems. Our project has developed a community based 'bottom up' approach to solving some of these problems. For example, one of the biggest challenges is the gathering of firewood for fuel. In one area we funded the installation of biogas stoves in the homes of local families living closest to the best habitat for endangered birds. Instead of using firewood for fuel, biogas stoves run on methane gas produced from the fermentation of the dung of livestock such as pigs. This reduces firewood collection by up to 90% per household, thus protecting the habitat and releasing time for other activities such as the growing of cash crops like tea. In return for the stoves, the recipient families sign an undertaking not to poach wildlife or to collect firewood or other forest products from the nature reserve. Small-scale projects like this one are now being taken up by local Government and NGOs on a bigger scale. This is a sign that our capacity building approach is working to the benefit of both wildlife and people."

One measure of the success of the project has been the recent promotion of two of the provincial level nature reserves that have been supported to national status. This is a clear recognition both of the endemic wildlife they contain and the integrated approach to monitoring and management undertaken by the nature reserve staff, encouraged and supported by the Project.

Further details of the project can be found on the Chester Zoo website:

and on the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA) website at:

Image of natives with Biogas Stove
Pictured (above right): Broadleaf Forest in Laojunshan Nature Reserve, Sichuan Province, China
Pictured above (left): black bear taken by a camera trap (photo credited to Laojunshan Nature Reserve, Sichuan Province)
Pictured (above): Biogas Stove
(other pictures taken by Simon Dowell)

Page last modified by Corporate Communications on 10 July 2012.
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