Tibetan villagers assigned to guard wildlife in a Tibetan prefecture in northwestern China’s Sichuan province have taken into custody four Han Chinese caught poaching endangered animals in protected areas, sources said.
The four were detained at around 2:00 a.m. on Jan. 9 near Basu village in Dzoege (in Chinese, Ruo’ergai) county in the Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture and were quickly handed over to local officials, a resident of the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“The Tibetans confiscated two rifles and a jeep, along with the carcasses of 12 animals the poachers had hunted,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The animals they had killed included musk deer, wild sheep, wolves, and rabbits, according to photos circulating on the social media platform Weibo and obtained by RFA.
Sichuan’s provincial government website later confirmed the detentions, adding that the accused poachers are now under investigation by Dzoege county police.
Snow leopards killed
In a separate incident, official sources reported on Jan. 12 that five Chinese nationals of unknown ethnicity were taken into custody for alleged poaching near Hetita village in Qinghai’s Tsonub (Haixi) Mongol and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
No date of detention was reported, but the suspects were found with the carcasses of two snow leopards and several vultures and wild sheep.
The alleged illegal hunt occurred in a Tibetan nature reserve in Qinghai and is thought to have been a part of wider poaching activities in the area beginning in October. The suspects have not admitted guilt in the case but face ongoing investigation by the authorities, sources said.
China is one of the world’s largest consumers of wildlife products, and snow leopards are prized by poachers because of their beautiful fur, though their bones and other body parts are frequently used in traditional Asian medicine.
An estimated 6,000 snow leopards remain in the wild, though their numbers are dwindling and are difficult to pin down because of the animals’ shy nature and rugged habitat.
Directives from China’s central government urging protection of the vulnerable environment of Tibetan areas are often flouted at the local level by Han Chinese migrants to the region, experts say.
Reported by Guru Choegyi and Chakmo Tso for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Brooks Boliek and Richard Finney.