Fascinating Nature Preserves
Since 1981 Yunnan has established 19forest and wild animal protection zones and 11 nature preserves, covering a total area of 18.38 million mu. Yunnan has more nature preserves than any other Chinese province. Six of these nature preserves are at national level. The Cangshan-Erhai Nature Preserve, occupying an area of 79,700 hectares, features the remains of glaciers, primeval forests and highland lakes. The Ailao Mountain Nature Preserve, covering an area of 50,360 hectares, has subtropical forests of ever-green broadleaf trees. The Nangun River Nature Preserve, stretching for 6,983hectares,was set up to protect tropical forests and the Asian elephants living in them. The preserves in Xishuangbanna, the Gaoligong Mountain area and the Baimang Snow Mountain area are the largest in Yunnan Province.
Xishuangbanna has 3,500 species of plants and many tropical and subtropical rain forests. In the forest are thick arbors and numerous different shrubs growing together to form an enchanted green world. Xishuangbanna is a unique botanical garden, in which one can find almost every kind of plant which grows on the planet including cycadopsida, the heaviest wood; cork wood, the lightest wood; sandalwood, the most fragrant wood; whitewood, the wood with the most unpleasant smell; curare wood, the most poisonous; Coptis chinensis, the bitterest; padauk, the hardest wood; teak, the most valuable, and so on.
One of the miracles in the forest is known as the one-tree forest. The banyan tree is one of these strange trees. Roots growing from all over its trunk and branches and reach down and plant themselves in the earth. These roots then form new trees which stand close together. Over time, the roots of the banyan become several trees forming its own small forest. Visitors often find it hard to tell which of the trees is the original one.
Xishuangbanna has been a paradise for animals since ancient times. The people of the Dai ethnic group used to call the Langcang River “Nanlanzhang”, meaning “a river to water millions of elephants.” Jinghong City was called “Mengjingyong” in ancient times, meaning” the peacock domain”. Now living in the tropical rain forests of Xishuangbanna are Asian elephants, tigers, leopards, wild oxen, apes, monkeys, deer, giant lizards, giant boa constrictors and other rare animals.
The Gaoligong Mountain Nature Preserve occupies 123,900hectares, of which about85 per cent is covered with forest. High peaks and deep canyons in the area combine to form a complex topography and varied climatic conditions, thus creating a perfect living environment for a wide variety of animals and plants. The Gaoligong Mountain, like a mighty protective screen, shelters the preserve from the cold currents coming from the northwest, while holding the warm and humid currents from the Indian Ocean within the zone. Standing high above sea level and situated at a low latitude, the preserve enjoys a typical subtropical climate. The main section of this nature preserve is 1,600 – 2,800 meters above sea level, and links with the Himalayas. Growing here are precious primeval forests of broadleaf trees where ancient azaleas still bloom. The largest is thought to be at least 500 years old. There are also some ancient species of plants under first class national protection, such as Phoebe nanmu, Chinese hemlock, Chinese tulip tree and so forth.
In the Hengduan Mountains which stretch from north to south,is an area which zoologists call the north-south corridor of animals. In this area live around 30 rare animals under first class national protection, including gibbons, slow loris, francois’s monkeys, phayre’s monkeys, assamese macaques, stump-tailed macaques, black musk deers, clouded leopards, golden cats, viverrids, and so forth. More than 300 kinds of birds also live in the zone.
Baimang Snow Mountain
Starting from Zhongdian, visitors can travel along the mountain roads until they reach the main peak of the Baimang Snow Mountain of 5,430 meters above sea level. Surrounding the main peak are 20 other snow-capped peaks. The steep mountainous areas from the Jinsha River Valley to the top of the Baimang Snow Mountain may be divided into several sections which have different topography and climate. For example, about 2,300 meters above sea level is a hot, dry valley; from 2,300 to 3,000 meters is an area of pine forest; from 3,000 to 3,200 meters are several broadleaf and other types of forests; from 3,200 to 4,500 meters is grassy marshland; from 4,500 to 5,000 is a barren area with sparse vegetation; and finally, over 5,000meters is covered with ice and snow all year round.
Covering an area of 190,144 hectares, the Baimang Snow Mountain Nature Preserve is a realm of highland plants and animals which thrive in cold and temperate zones. It is believed to be the largest primeval forest in the world and its natural ecology is still intact. Firs are the masters of the forests with their crowns linking together to form a dark-green sea. The eight famous species of flowers of Yunnan can all be found in this preserve. When spring moves into summer, rhododendrons bloom everywhere, orioles and birds sing one after another, and monkeys of many species play in the trees.
Yunnan golden monkeys (rhinopithecus bieti), otherwise called “Black snub-nosed monkeys”, the second most precious animal on the national list for protection, live in the zone. This group of monkeys live at the highest place above sea level of all monkeys worldwide. The Yunnan golden monkeys live in harmony with over80 other animal species, including lesser pandas, vultures, snow leopards, blood pheasants, red foxes, Tibetan eared pheasants, silver pheasants, ring-necked pheasants, lady amherst’s pheasants, kokloss pheasants, sun birds and many other species.