Wildlife and Nature Reserves During the PRC

Wildlife and Nature Reserves


J. Burns


For centuries, China fell subject to massive environmental degradation due to a spike in population and economical motivation. Following the victory of the Chinese Communists in 1949, The People’s Republic of China was created, and is one of the most environmentally destructive periods in China’s history. More than 90% of originals forests disappeared, along with a huge loss in biodiversity. This human centered focus and environmental degradation had massive consequences to economics, health, and several other societal aspects in China. During this time period, there were attempts at reforesting nature and creating animal reservers, although very poorly executed.

Deforestation in Yunnan

“The state announces that forests are an inefficient land use. Trees were either to be exploited or moved out of the way for the production of both grain and economic crops, (Marks, 2012)”

Nature Reserves

The Great Green Wall:

China was determined to figure out how much forest they had left, and what they could do to preserve it, but often issues of interpretation as to what “forests” entailed made this difficult. Nonetheless, one of the biggest projects set in place to reforest China was the Three Norths Shelter Project also named informally “The Great Green Wall.”

From Kashgar to the Great Xiang Mountains, more than 4 million kilometers, were taken into account as the project called for restoring forests in the mountains, stabilizing uprooted loose sand and soil, and halting the desertification.

Issues with the GGW:

  • Wouldn’t see tangible change until 2050
  • Much of the reforestation end up being plantations, not forests
  • Desertification continued after 

Wildlife Reserves

Giant Panda  

Wangling Nature Reserve in Pingwu:

In 1962, The Chinese Council, the most powerful Chinese governmental body, acknowledged the importance of the giant panda, and “declared the giant panda a precious and rare species, placing it under first-level national protection,” (Marks, 2012). Three years later, in 1965, the Wangling Nature Reserve in Pingwu, made up of extensive bamboo groves – a panda’s main source of food – was created specifically to preserve these giant creatures.


The number of Panda’s in the reserve in 1968 was 196 but dropped severely to 19 in 1985. If the reserve was created in 1965, why did the number of panda’s drop significantly from 1965-1985?

  • “Learn from Dazhai” campaign of the Cultural Revolution happened at same time which supported the battle against nature and the hegemony of mankind
  • “I remember how we cut bamboo and trees down to build Dahazi-style terraces and grow grain wherever possible” (Marks, 2012). 
  • Timber-dependent communities near Wanglang, hard-pressed since logging restrictions were enacted in 1998, have turned to illegal poaching, logging, and collecting of wild mushrooms and herbs, often disturbing panda habitat and threatening the effective management of Wanglang reserve.

It was therefore not the natural features that were valued in the landscape, but the evidence of human endeavor.



In 2010, China had in place over 2,500 nature reserves, 200 national scenic areas and 660 national forests parks. Several of the wildlife and nature reserves that were established during the People’s Republic of China did not function as such because they did not have the state supporting them in funding; many of the reserves.

  • No signs or structure labeling them as a reserves
  • Most if not all of the reserves had no official on sight enforcing protection
  • The Ministry of Forestry has little to no financial support and allowed the managers to exploit the lands for their own “development of industries, and increase reserves’ abilities for self-accumulation and self-development,” which is the antithesis of a natural reserves purpose

The preservation and conservation of wildlife started as a strong, smart idea but had no foundation, support, or execution, allowing for the continued exploitation of nature. Economic value and expansion, for centuries, has been placed in priority over nature in China and the consequences have repeated themselves throughout history. Unfortunately, due to such severe environmental degradation, the environment in China will be permanently changed and to an extent irrevocable.