Siling Lake, positioned at the juncture of Xainza, Baingoin, and Shuanghu counties in Xizang, China, holds a remarkable status both in the local ecological system and within the sphere of global environmental protection. Nestled amidst the towering altitudes of the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, this saline lake, second in size in the country, boasts an elevation of 4,530 meters above sea level. Its origins can be traced back to the geological evolution of the plateau, a testament to the enduring forces that have shaped the region over millennia.
A recent visit by a reporter from the Global Times revealed the striking coexistence of various wildlife species in the vicinity of Siling Lake. Tibetan antelopes and wild asses graced the roadside, while raptors elegantly circled the skies above. The expansive waters of the lake, framed by golden grasslands and distant snow-capped peaks, painted a mesmerizing picture of natural beauty and serenity.
This natural treasure was first designated as a regional-level nature reserve in Xizang in 1993, attesting to its local significance. Subsequently, in June 2003, it earned the esteemed status of a national-level nature reserve. The international community recognized its importance when it was included in the list of Wetlands of International Importance in 2018, solidifying its crucial role in global biodiversity conservation.
Recent developments have unveiled a significant expansion of Siling Lake, with its water surface area now stretching across 2,391 square kilometers. Surpassing the renowned Namtso Lake, Siling Lake has emerged as the largest lake in the region. Local officials suggest a possible correlation between this expansion and the sweeping impacts of climate change, underscoring the urgent need for comprehensive environmental stewardship and protection.
At the heart of the Siling Lake Nature Reserve lies a critical mission: the preservation of the diverse wildlife and the fragile high-altitude wetlands. This reserve serves as a vital center for researching natural ecological transformations and maintaining the delicate balance of biodiversity in the region. Within its boundaries, a host of unique species, native to the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, find sanctuary. Among them, the Tibetan antelopes, Tibetan wild asses, Tibetan gazelles, snow leopards, lynx, wolves, black-necked cranes, and bar-headed geese stand as testament to the rich biological diversity sustained by this unique ecosystem.
A striking peculiarity of the Tibetan antelopes around Siling Lake is their sedentary nature, a trait that allows observers to witness their graceful presence throughout the year. Tarchin, an experienced wildlife conservation patroller hailing from Xainza County, shared insights into the crucial role played by local communities in safeguarding these precious species. With a team of 42 patrollers, primarily comprised of herders receiving monthly subsidies, their responsibilities peak during the bird migration season in June and July. Tarchin emphasized the necessity of vigilance to prevent incidents such as avian influenza, highlighting their thorough patrols using motorcycles or cars, facilitated by the accessible roads that enable them to complete their missions efficiently.
Gravitating towards the conservation of this diverse ecosystem, the local herders have demonstrated unwavering dedication, ensuring the absence of any reported poaching incidents over Tarchin’s 14-year tenure. Beyond the avian and mammalian diversity, the elusive snow leopards hold a significant presence in the region. Palbar Tashi, the head of the Siling Lake Nature Reserve, emphasized the crucial role of these elusive felines in indicating the overall health of the ecosystem. Their presence points to a stable population of prey species like bharals, reflecting the delicate balance maintained within this intricate web of life.
Tarchin recounted a gripping encounter with a snow leopard, recounting the cat’s unusual venture into a local village, where it consumed several sheep, later succumbing to lethargy within the confines of a sheepfold. Displaying scars from the encounter, he recalled the careful capture and subsequent release of the snow leopard back into the wild, with the affected herders duly compensated by the local authorities.
Under the visionary leadership of Palbar Tashi, the reserve is now venturing into innovative approaches to conservation education and awareness. Training programs for wildlife conservation officers in photography and new media technology have been initiated, aiming to showcase the unparalleled beauty of Siling Lake and the ongoing wildlife conservation efforts to a global audience.
The Qiangtang Plateau, encompassing the home of Siling Lake, occupies a unique position in China, boasting an impressive collection of lakes. It stands as one of the most significant and elevated lake clusters globally, with over 800 lakes of varying sizes scattered across the picturesque Qiangtang Grassland. The collective water surface of these lakes spans a staggering 25,000 square kilometers, as reported by the Xinhua News Agency, affirming the extraordinary richness of this remarkable natural tapestry.