On the remote Tibetan Plateau, the Chang Tang grasslands still harbor rare animals, like Tibetan antelope, wild yak, and snow leopard. It’s also a home to unique nomadic communities. But that’s changing. Local economic development is reaching this “roof of the world”.
In response, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has entered into an innovative partnership with local authorities and communities to establish conservation incentive agreements, which provide technical assistance and support for the program’s pilot communities, if they agree to embrace conservation-friendly changes including: (1) reducing livestock grazing to avoid clashes with wildlife; (2) opening corridors along pasture fences to allow wild animals to move more freely; (3) assisting government and reserve staff to improve patrol and monitoring capacity through a network of rangers recruited directly from local herding communities; (4) constructing predator-proof fences to reduce livestock loss; and (5) working with local communities, reserves, universities, and the corporate sector to create wildlife-friendly businesses (like the one focused on ecotourism, complete with full business plan).
While the Government already has a compensation program to mitigate livestock loss, it cannot reduce conflict directly, and is unsustainable due to the rising number of conflicts (common even in the U.S. where people move into wild animal territory). So rather than provide direct compensation, WCS’ new conservation incentive model offers more strategic incentives focused on the above-listed activities.
There is a healthy future for these incentive agreements because they require financial and in-kind contributions from the government and participating communities, which encourages everyone to think about how to use incentive funds and natural resources more sustainably. In just two years, this initiative is showing strong signs of acceptance by all stakeholders, which brings the hope of significant future benefits for this high, wild place, and the people who live here.
Wildlife Conservation Society
Addressing social and economic causes and effects, Safeguarding fragile resources
—Dr. Aili Kang, WCS’s China Program Director
“At the heart of the Tibetan Plateau, Chang Tang hosts a globally important biodiversity community; and we have a unique opportunity to maintain its wildness now. Innovation and dedication to conservation will allow us to protect this landscape today and for future generations.”