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Exhibition hails heroes of wildlife

TASHI Zumpo, a 39-year-old lama monk from Guolo Prefecture of Qinghai Province on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, never imagined that his love for the rare birds in his hometown would be made public nationwide.

Tashi's story, together with 89 others of ordinary people's quiet protection of endangered wild species, is being exhibited at the National Zoological Museum in Beijing, to be followed by exhibitions in several other cities.

The exhibition, which was opened on Tuesday and is to last for 25 days, is part of the 23rd International Congress for Conservation Biology to be held in Beijing from Sunday to Thursday.

Tashi, now a doctor on Tibetan Buddhism in the Palyul Monastery's subsidiary temple, said he fell in love with birds 26 years ago when his impoverished parents sent him to the temple to become a lama.

"I was homesick and I felt so happy watching the birds," Tashi said.

Since then, he has recorded the habits of nearly 400 species of birds, such as when and where they make nests or breed, by drawing pictures or jotting down notes.

He is also a loyal guardian of emberiza koslowi, a rarely seen species of bunting restricted to the eastern part of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.

In 2005, Tashi first saw an emberiza koslowi on the mountain behind his temple.

Since then, with funding from the European Union-China Biodiversity Program, Tashi has been able to protect the rare buntings by compensating the villagers in his hometown to share pasture with the birds in their breeding seasons.

In 2007, Tashi founded his own association with help from the Shanshui Conservation Center, an NGO on nature protection. The association's 63 members are all volunteers, mostly locals, who share a passion for wildlife protection.

"The youngest member is only four years old, a local girl who I think has a talent for observing the birds," Tashi said.

Xie Yan, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's China program, said "community protection," or ordinary people's spontaneous protection of wildlife, played a very important role in China's protection of wild species.

"We hope more people can join this team and become protectors," Xie said.


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