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October 20, 2009

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Tibetan savior of antelope wins Expo honor

HASHI Tashi-Dorjie still has nightmares of the day his best friend was shot dead in an ambush by 18 antelope poachers in Hol Xil, an uninhabited area in western China's Qinghai Province during an anti-poaching patrol.

His companion's body was found frozen on one knee, his pistol raised to shoot, after the clash 15 years ago.

However, instead of being scared by the violence, 48-year-old Hashi took over his dead friend's mission to protect the Tibetan antelope, one of the mascots of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Two non-government natural protection organizations were established to educate local people about the importance of the natural environment.

With his efforts, the 50,000-square-kilometer Hol Xil area now has more than 10,000 antelopes, triple the number 10 years ago.

Last Tuesday, the Shanghai Expo organizer along with L'Oreal, a project sponsor of the 2010 event, selected Hashi as one of the first batch of 100 "Shanghai Expo Stars" for his efforts in protecting the natural landscape. The title means he is now a model citizen, able to spread the world about environmental protection.

Hashi, who lost his parents at the age of eight, says he began his mission to protect the Tibetan antelope because his dead friend frequently shouted to him in his dreams: "Never give up."

But now he knows that "education is far more effective than the gun."

He uses dances and performances as well as organizing horse-riding competitions and other sports to urge local people not to hunt animals and pollute rivers.

Now many people in his hometown have given up wearing clothes made from animal skins, he says.

From 2002, Hashi travelled across 23 villages in Qinghai and Tibet Autonomous Region to investigate the geological conditions of these areas. Many of his photos of endangered species have been published in school textbooks.

Hashi is now the secretary-general of the Snowland Great Rivers Environmental Protection Association and a council member of the China Environmental Culture Promotion Association.

But he says he still misses his days patrolling the land in Hol Xil to protect the deer from poachers.

"Driving a jeep across the borderless grassland, living with the wild snow leopard and antelope - that was the happiest time in my life," says Hashi.


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