The Hot Zone
China's newly announced air defense identification zone over the East China Sea aims to shore up national security
Current Issue
· Table of Contents
· Editor's Desk
· Previous Issues
· Subscribe to Mag
Subscribe Now >>
Expert's View
Market Watch
North American Report
Government Documents
Expat's Eye
Photo Gallery
Reader's Service
Learning with
'Beijing Review'
E-mail us
RSS Feeds
PDF Edition
Reader's Letters
Make Beijing Review your homepage
Hot Links

cheap eyeglasses
Market Avenue

NO. 35 SEPTEMBER 3, 2009
Newsletter> NO. 35 SEPTEMBER 3, 2009
UPDATED: August 31, 2009 NO. 35 SEPTEMBER 3, 2009
The Spirit of the Wild
China needs to develop eco-tourism industry


Western nature and wildlife enthusiasts are quite willing and capable of spending large sums of money to pursue their interests in China, depending not on "if the price is right" but "if the conditions are right."

Before coming to China in 2002 from Canada, I was unaware of the high degree of biodiversity of both animal and plant species in the country. As a dedicated wildlife photographer, I looked forward to many opportunities here.

It all started when I had a chance to take photographs of China's wild elephants in Yunnan Province's Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve. The animals sporadically return to the same shallow stream in search of salt-bearing deposits on its bed.

But the so-called "Elephant Valley" is also a major target of mass tourism and on a visit there I became familiar with visitors' adverse effects on wildlife. One morning I went out to take photographs, but due to provocations by tourists such as yelling, throwing stones or shining powerful flashlights at the animals, the herd had quietly retreated into the surrounding tropical rainforest during the night.

In the book A Green World Tour written by Tang Xiyang and Marcia Marks, the authors say, "In Western countries people are kind to wildlife…" To develop environmentally friendly eco-tourism in China will require large-scale educational efforts to familiarize the general public with the etiquette needed to behave in the wilderness.

After my visit to Xishuangbanna, I started to make enquiries with travel agencies specializing in so-called "nature adventure" tours, which they often classified as eco-tourism.

But there are no special wildlife photography tour packages available, especially for private tours, which is the only way I will travel.

The reason for my preference is, when trying to find wild animals and approach within "shooting range," I need to be alone to try and match my personal skills against the animals' natural instincts without any unwanted disturbances.

Will a travel agency be able to find such a place of solitude off the beaten track? If yes, what adaptations, if any, have been made to optimize the chances of successfully encountering the animals?

This is the Achilles Heel of wildlife photography tourism in China. Probably the most critical need is the availability of both motorized and non-motorized means of transportation, including jeep-type vehicles for long distance transportation over rough terrain, snowmobiles in winter, 4-wheel-drive quads and, last but not least, suitably trained horses year round.

The variety of transportation is needed to get as close as possible to the "critical approach perimeter" before the animals take flight and then use a stalking technique for the final approach. Timing is critical.

A writer for WildChina, a private travel company offering specialty programs in eco-tourism, wrote in China Travel Industry News: "Can Western travelers who are looking for a real eco-tourism experience (such as they may find in Thailand or South America) be accommodated in China now? What examples exist in China of well-managed tourism spots that will appeal to tourists who wish to travel off the beaten track but not as budget backpackers?"

The following scenario illustrates a case in point, which is representative of the overall situation under discussion in China.

During the past winter season I arranged a private wildlife photography tour package with an English-speaking guide to a special region in China that is famous for its diversity and abundance of wildlife, as well as its beautiful natural scenery.

After an excruciatingly bumpy ride in an older model car over deep snow on narrow forest roads, we arrived at our starting point—a large, wide-open area. Our two local guides suggested we start walking and follow the tracks of a group of deer until we caught up to the animals.

Walking in the deep snow for an undetermined distance while playing a search game seemed to me absolutely futile, if not absurd. I asked if they had a snowmobile or a 4-wheel-drive quad? They answered that they had no such vehicles and they could not understand why anybody would not want to walk. Frustrated with the strange behavior of their foreign clients, they walked along the tracks alone for many kilometers but eventually returned without success.

The existing facilities available in China for private wildlife photography package tours are totally inadequate to meet Western expectations, partly as a result of cultural differences and lifestyle conditioning.

Wildlife photography eco-tourism is completely eco-friendly and has virtually no impact on the environment. Additionally, it will function as an inspirational catalyst for fostering the Spirit of the Wild as so eloquently described by Jack London in his classic book The Call of the Wild.

The writer is an American living in Dongying, Shandong Province

Top Story
-Protecting Ocean Rights
-Partners in Defense
-Fighting HIV+'s Stigma
-HIV: Privacy VS. Protection
-Setting the Tone
Most Popular
About BEIJINGREVIEW | About beijingreview.com | Rss Feeds | Contact us | Advertising | Subscribe & Service | Make Beijing Review your homepage
Copyright Beijing Review All right reserved