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Wolf population rebounds in northwestern China, threatens livestock.

BEIJING, Dec. 26 Kyodo

Wolves thought to have disappeared are making a comeback in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of northwestern China and threatening to upset the food chain, official media reported Monday.

Wolves have killed 50 sheep in Qinghe County this winter, and total of 266 sheep this year, Xinhua News Agency quoted local officials as saying.

Xinhua said wolves had resurfaced in two other areas of the region, as well.

''Though the exact figure of wolves is not yet available, packs of wolves have become sizeable in Xinjiang,'' Xinhua said, citing animal experts.

It said herders want local governments to get rid of the wolves which threaten their livestock, but environmentalists are in ''firm opposition'' to their extermination.

The canis lupus wolves, which also live in neighboring Qinghai Province and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, probably never disappeared, said Zhang Jinshuo, an animal researcher with the China Academy of Sciences.

When levels of their natural prey, such as mountain sheep, decline, wolves may go after livestock instead, making them more obvious to the region's sparse human population and giving the false impression of a population surge.

''Such a sudden increase does not fit with biological principles,'' Zhang said. ''They're not like bugs or mice, which can suddenly increase.''

The wolf is not a government-protected species and can be legally hunted in some areas, though local authorities have urged against indiscriminate killing. This effort may have led to an increase in the population, Zhang said.

Wolf survival probably helps the food chain, Xinhua said. Without them, herbivore populations could get too big and ''bring ruins to the grassland,'' the news agency said, citing Zhu Defu, wilderness protection center director of the Xinjiang Forestry Bureau.

Zhu told Xinhua he wanted wolves and sheep to share pastures to keep an ecological balance.

A true rebound in the wolf population could affect food supply, said Cheng Yun, coordinator with the Xinjiang Conservation Fund, a Beijing-based nongovernmental organization. She said bears as well as people must now compete with them for the same food supplies.

Local governments have resolved to protect wild wolves by compensating herders who lose their livestock, Xinhua said.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Dec 27, 2005
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