China

China is a vast country with a wide range of natural habitats, spanning from the high plateau of the Gobi Desert to the rugged mountains of the Himalayas to the river deltas of the Yangtze. Within these habitats one finds many unique but endangered species: snow leopards, lynx, tiger, wolf, brown bear, Tibetan gazelle, Yangtze river dolphin, and of course, the iconic giant panda.

Habitat loss has left pandas and many other species clinging for survival (there are only an estimated 1,600 pandas in the wild in China) as large areas of natural forest have been cleared for agriculture, timber and fuelwood.

Other environmental problems facing China include air and water pollution, desertification and high levels of carbon emissions. By 2025, many scientists believe that China will be the world’s leading producer of greenhouse gases.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / John MacKINNON
Jiu Zhai Gou Nature Reserve, Sichuan Province, China.
© WWF-Canon / John MacKINNON

Country Eco-tips

Energy and Water
  • Tap water in China is undrinkable.
  • Top hotels will often provide guests with bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth.
  • Care should be taken when choosing bottled water in a market - ensure the water is transparent, free of any form of deposit and that the bottle is smooth and clear. Also check that the seal is intact.
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Recycling
  • The world’s largest plastics recycling plant has been built in Beijing and recycling bins continue to be placed around the city, although they are often hard to find.
 
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Transport
  • China’s rail network reaches every province, making it one of the most secure and reliable ways to travel through the country. The Qinghai-Tibet railway line – the “highest railroad in the world” – opened in 2006, connecting central China to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.
  • Large cities such as Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have efficient subways; elsewhere the city bus is the main transport.
  • There are some passenger ferries on the larger rivers.
  • Driving a car across China is still forbidden to foreigners. However, foreign residents can rent vehicles for local use in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and other cities.
  • China has the most bicycles in the world, and is a main form of transportation. Most cities have rental shops for bikes, mainly around the train stations. Foreign visitors don’t need a license to ride a bike.
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Food
  • According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, China has about 2.3 million hectares of certified organic farmland.
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Souvenirs
  • Be careful when buying local souvenirs - they may be made from endangered species. Such products include high-fashion shatoosh scarves made from the hair of Tibetan antelopes, rugs from leopard skins, bracelets from turtle shells and traditional medicines from tiger parts and rhino horns.
  • Ideal souvenirs from China that do not endanger wildlife include local handicrafts, silk, tea, calligraphy, paper-cuttings and more.
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Green Spots
  • Qinling Mountains: A major mountain range in the eastern province of Shaanxi, Qinling is home to about 200–300 pandas. The mountains are also home to snub-nosed monkeys, golden eagles and clouded leopards.
  • East Dongting Lake Nature Reserve: Located in central Hunan Province, the reserve is part of Lake Dongting, China’s second largest fresh water lake and a flood basin of the Yangtze River. The reserve is listed as a Wetland of International Importance and is home to rare bird species such as white cranes. Endangered black finless porpoises can sometimes be seen in the lake.
  • Wolong Nature Reserve: Set up in 1963, Wolong, located in the mountains of Sichuan Province, is home to over 6,000 animal and plant species; representing 17% of China’s biodiversity. Within the reserve is the Wolong Panda Breeding Centre, which takes care of captive giant pandas.
  • Wanglang Nature Reserve: The government-run, WWF-supported Wanglang Panda Reserve – covering an area of 320sq km – lies in the Minshan Mountains in northern Sichuan Province. Up to 20,000 visitors come each year to admire the 32 pandas living here, as well as other endangered species such as black bear, red panda, musk deer and golden monkey, and to walk in one of China’s few remaining virgin forests.
  • Beihai Park: Located in the centre of Beijing, Beihai (or North Sea) Park is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved ancient imperial gardens in China. The park covers an area of more than 69 hectares, with more than half of it is taken up by the Beihai Lake.
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Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the above information. However, WWF makes no warranties, expressed or implied, regarding errors or omissions and assumes no legal liability or responsibility for loss or damage resulting from its use.
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