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January 23, 2010

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Wolves strike as freeze grips

RAVENOUS wolves have attacked livestock belonging to six herdsmen in the past week on Xilingol Plateau in northwest China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, killing a total of 306 sheep, regional border defense officials reported yesterday.

Attacks had happened before, said Wang Changsheng, "but wolves killed five to six sheep at most."

The continuous snow might have led to the massacre, he said, "because wolves can't find food elsewhere."

Herdsmen Zhao Runming and Liu Manku each lost 120 sheep in one night.

"It was horrible. I went to the sheepfold at 5:30am on Wednesday and I saw the pen was open already. Twenty sheep were lying on the ground with blood everywhere. Six of them were left with only heads and legs," another herdsman, Aurigele, said.

"We don't know what to do, as wolves often attack at night, and we can't hunt them," he said.

Wolves became endangered in the 1970s because of hunting. Now the animal is protected and hunting has been banned since the 1990s.

The local government is helping the herdsmen build stronger fences and transfer livestock to safer places.

Meanwhile, strong winds have closed all three major highways in Tacheng city in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, leaving 4,000 passengers stranded.

The wind, at speeds up to 100 kilometers per hour, had delayed 310 buses since 10am on Wednesday, said Wang Xinbao, director of the municipal department of transport. It also drove temperatures to minus 20-34.8 degrees Celsius.

Blizzards and extreme cold since late December have disrupted transport, seriously threatened livestock and affected daily life in Xinjiang.

The latest cold snap sent temperatures to minus 45.7 degrees Celsius in Fuyun County and left at least four people dead and more than 600 people injured.

Xinjiang governments are trying to transport feed to Altay and Tacheng, where livestock have eaten half of the forage in stock.

The People's Liberation Army dispatched two helicopters on Thursday to rescue 14 people trapped in a blizzard in Altay.

Disaster relief goods including quilts, tents and food have been provided by the central and regional governments and the Red Cross Society of China.


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