With its vast area, diverse landscape and climate variations, China harbors a rich variety of wildlife. It is one of ton countries with the largest numbers of biological species in the world. In terms of temperature, the nation can be divided from south to north into equatorial, tropical, subtropical, warm-temperate, temperate and cold-temperate zones. In terms of moisture, it can also be divided from southeast to northwest into humid, semi-humid, semi-arid and arid zones. China's topography is varied and complicated, with towering mountains, different sized basins, undulating plateaus and fertile plains. The change of climate and altitude naturally produce many differences in the types of wildlife prevalent in each area. The wildlife typical of mountains, deserts and prairies are mainly spread north of the Qinling and Hengduan Mountain Ranges, while tropical and subtropical animals live to the south of these ranges. But, in the transitional areas between different types of climate or topography, there may be some overlap some species expand their living areas beyond traditional boundaries. For example, tropical and subtropical animals such as Rhesus Macaque and Masked Civet can also be found in northern China. The wolf and fox have moved out of their traditional habitat in the north into the rest of the country. Located in western china, the Tibetan Plateau and Mongolian Plateau are very cold and arid, and can only support Yaks, Tibetan antelopes, Mongolian Gazelles, Marmots and other wildlife capable of adapting to such a harsh environment.
China has over 4,640 vertebrate species, including 450 mammals, 1,329 birds, 387 reptiles, 274 amphibians and over 2,200 fishes, accounting for ten percent of all the world's vertebrate species. Among them, more than one hundred species such as the Giant Panda, Chinese River Dolphin, Golden Monkey, White-lipped Deer, Brown-eared Pheasant, Golden Pheasant, Black-necked Crane, Chinese giant Salamander, Chinese Alligator and Chinese Crocodilian lizard are native to China. The Giant Panda, a world-renowned wildlife species, can only live in a natural state in the western mountainous areas of Sichuan Province, the Min Mountain and on the southern slot)e of the Oinling Mountain Range. Of the 15 species of cranes in the world, nine are found in China. Additionally, China has 61 of the world's total of 28 l pheasant species. More than 20 species of pheasants are either unique to, or mainly live in China.
Owing to excessive exploitation of nature, rapid population increase and the development of industries, wildlife is suffering a catastrophic decline and more than ten species of animals, including the Wild Horse and David's Deer have been extinct in the wild. Nearly one hundred animals including the Giant Panda, Tiger, Asiatic Elephant and Crested Ibis are listed as endangered species. Poaching makes the situation even worse, so that wildlife protection has become an increasingly important issue.
Since the founding of New China in 1949, the government has promulgated a series of regulations, and finally established its first law for protecting wildlife - "Wildlife Protection Law of the People's Republic of China" - in November 1988. Some other laws and policies were issued by both central and local governments in the ensuing years, laying a solid legal foundation for the protection of wildlife.
China has made remarkable achievements in protecting and breeding rare and endangered species. Since the 1980s, for example, the Ministry of Forestry has been cooperating with the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly the World Wildlife Foundation) on the study and protection of the Giant Panda. Only seven Crested Ibises were found in northern China's Shaanxi Province in 1981, when a Crested Ibis Conservation Area was set up. Now, the number has increased to nearly 300. After nearly 20 years of hard work, the Xuanzhou Chinese Alligator Breeding and Research Center in Anhui Province has managed to increase the number of Chinese Alligators from less than 500 to more than ten thousand.
The Chinese government has paid great attention to natural reserve construction as a means of protecting wildlife. So far. More than 1,000 sites covering 120 million hectares, approximately 12 percent of Chinese territory, have been declared as natural reserves. Some endangered species have begun a gradual recovery and steady population growth.
The cause of wildlife conservation in China has attracted international concern an d support, and the government has signed a number of international treaties on the protection of wildlife and nature in general. It has also signed agreements with foreign countries on the protection of migratory birds, the Giant Panda and the Tiger. Scientific exchanges between Chinese and international conservation organizations are quite frequent.
Wildlife is a treasure of mankind and an important part of the natural environment. They are our close friends, not our enemies. We have the responsibility and obligation to preserve valuable wildlife for coming generations.