Wolves Running Wild in China

This item is a worthy reminder that all carnivores must be tightly managed. Humanity happens to be a natural prey to all such animals and our historical aggressiveness kept them in fear of us. Unless they caught us alone and vulnerable.

The press loves to push tales of their reappearance in historics regions long since hunted out. This is quite silly. The grizzly had a natural range that reached the banks of the Mississippi. It is now restricted mostly to the Great Bear Rainforest which has its almost inhabitability to recommend it. It is a very safe place to keep them.

My recent reading of Humbolt’s Cosmos informed me that in the rainforest, your constant nightly visitor was the jaguar, kept at bay by the blazing fire kept. And the lions of Africa are denied by a fondness for thorn thickets.

This tale out of China shows just how a pack will identify a source and keep at it until it is wiped out. They stay with the game.

On top of it, wolves are notoriously difficult to hunt. That is why ranchers have resorted to poison.

Of course we now have the Yellowstone pack. I wonder how much public support will remain if a cunning wolf grabs a young child and takes off.

The truth is that the wolf pack of our recent past was a fearsome force during times of famine in the wild. It was quite common for hungry wolves to be driven down into the valleys where dozens would waylay travelers on horseback. We may have insolated ourselves from all that, but the relaxation of our guard demonstrated here is unwise.

China's herders plea for help as wolf packs rampage

by Staff WritersSiziwangqi, China (AFP) May 25, 2009


Scanning the vast northern China steppe surrounding him, Delger leans on a wooden staff that is his herd's only protection against a lethal enemy that is out there, somewhere.

"They come at night, but you never hear them. When you do hear something, it is the sheep crying out, and by then it's too late," he said.

Delger, 44, has lost six of his 40 sheep in the past two years to stealthy attacks by the wolf packs that roam northern China's Inner Mongolia region.

The wolves were hunted to near extinction in China as Communist leader Mao Zedong encouraged the eradication of an animal viewed as a threat to his utopian efforts to increase agricultural and livestock production.

But mounting attacks by the wolves -- now protected -- have sparked calls by herders and some local governments for resumed hunting of the predator.

"There is not enough protection for us herders now. The wolves cannot be hunted. What about us?" complained Delger, who like many members of China's ethnic Mongolian minority goes by one name.
The attacks have become so frequent that desperate authorities in the Alxa district of Inner Mongolia constructed a 100-kilometre (62-mile) fence last June near the border with the republic of Mongolia.
Alxa herders had lost more than 600 sheep and 300 camels over the preceding two years, state media said. Similar tolls have been reported across Inner Mongolia.

In December, a wolf was spotted along the Great Wall just 50 kilometres from Beijing, the first sighting there in a generation, according to Chinese media.

What remains unclear is the reason for the wolves' boldness.

Government reports and state-controlled media have said all the indicators show wolf populations are on the upswing thanks to environment-protection measures.

But wolf expert Gao Zhongxin said the opposite is likely true.

Wolves are attacking livestock because environmental

, expanding desertification, and human encroachment have reduced their natural prey, said Gao, who has studied the issue for China's Northeast Forestry Institute.

"The number of wolves has probably stabilised but desertification and degeneration of the grassland is increasingly serious and a new threat to the wolves," he told AFP.

The issue is an emotional one in China's ethnic Mongolian border areas due to the powerful symbolism of wolves in traditional Mongol society.

Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan modeled his fierce and highly mobile cavalry on the wolf packs, eventually amassing the largest land empire ever.

Mongol nomads have for centuries battled the wolves to protect their flocks, even while revering them as guardians of the grasslands.

"The wolves are central to Mongol culture, but there are fewer of them now. Young Mongols today do not hear the old wolf stories anymore. That is dying out," author Lu Jiamin told AFP.

Lu, an ethnic Han Chinese who lived with Mongol herders during China's Cultural Revolution, detailed the animals' spiritual connection to the wolves in his acclaimed book "Wolf Totem," written under a pseudonym.

He agrees the stepped-up wolf attacks indicate the animals are under pressure, which he calls a bad sign for China's six million ethnic Mongols, many of whom claim their culture is rapidly dying out under Chinese rule.

So far, proposals to relax the hunting ban have gained no traction, although Gao says illegal hunting is under way in some areas.

For now, Delger keeps his sheep closer to home than before and does not let them roam at night.

He was already under pressure from a recent plunge in mutton prices and says promised government compensation for lost sheep has not come through.

"They used to prey on wild animals," he said of the wolves.

"But now they are preying on us."

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