China is planning to build a new national park to save two endangered species – the Siberian tiger and Amur leopard – as it develops its US-style national park scheme.
This new park will be located in northeast China in the Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces, on the border of Russia and North Korea. It will cover 14,600 square kilometers (5,600 square miles), making it 60 percent bigger than Yellowstone in the US. According to Xinhua, a “comprehensive plan and pilot for the national park is expected to be carried out before 2020.”
In 1998, only six to nine wild Siberian tigers were estimated to be living in this area, rising to 27 by 2015 after conservation efforts that included a logging ban. However, the current reserve these tigers inhabit is not enough to let the species thrive. Approximately 400 more are thought to live in Russia.
Meanwhile, the global population of Amur leopards was less than 30 in 2007, mostly due to hunting and other human activities. This had almost doubled by 2015 thanks to work by conservation groups like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), but more still needs to be done.
China currently has what Science Magazine called a “mishmash of national reserves, semiprotected forests, and provincial parks.” So, in 2013, they decided to start building fully-fledged national parks to protect a number of species. These include the two aforementioned, in addition to giant pandas, the Tibetan antelope, and the Asian elephant.
The national park for giant pandas was also recently approved, which apparently will require 170,000 people to be relocated from southwest China’s Sichuan Province. That park will span 27,000 square kilometers (10,400 square miles).
Both of these pale in comparison to the largest national park in the world – Northeast Greenland National Park, which has an area of 972,000 square kilometers (375,000 square miles). But they will be vital in helping China maintain its wildlife, which has been compared to the national park project started by the US with Yellowstone in 1872 during its peak of industrialization.
“The [US] national parks program eventually expanded to include more than 450 sites and has become one of the country’s greatest tourist draws," the New York Times noted in 2015. “Now China is trying to do with some of its natural spaces what the United States did during its own industrial boom.”