The park will be home to two of the world’s most endangered big cats.
In yet another example of a “green revolution” in the country, Chinese officials have approved plans to establish a sprawling national park in the northeastern corner of the country. It will be a sanctuary for two cats endemic to the area that have dangled dangerously close to extinction: the Amur leopard and the Siberian tiger, also known as the Amur tiger.
The park in the provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang will be part of China’s brand-new national park system and will span 5,600 square miles — an area 60 percent larger than Yellowstone National Park. A comprehensive plan and pilot for the park is expected to be rolled out before 2020.
Environmentalists are celebrating the news.
Dale Miquelle, a conservationist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and a big cat expert, said the sanctuary will be one of the largest big cat reserves in the world.
“China’s commitment represents an extremely important step in recovering both subspecies in northeast Asia,” he wrote in an email to The Huffington Post.
The ‘World’s Rarest Cat’
The Amur leopard and tiger are among the most endangered big cats on Earth.
In 2007, the Amur leopard’s global population in the wild plunged to less than 30. The International Union for Conservation of Nature said at the time that the animal had gone locally extinct in China and the Korean peninsula, two areas that had once been in its range. Only a tiny population of the leopard remained in Russia’s Primorsky province, researchers said, adding that the survivors were facing “numerous threats, including encroaching civilization, new roads, poaching, exploitation of forests and climate change.”
The Amur tiger had faced a similarly dire future decades earlier. Hunting and other human activities decimated populations of the Amur tiger, once found in abundance in parts of Russia, China and the Korean peninsula. In the 1940s, only about 40 Amur tigers were believed to have existed in the wild.