Efforts to wipe out the pika on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau will further damage the fragile grasslands, warn campaigners
The surge in pika numbers is the result, not the cause, of grassland degradation suggest campaigners (Image by ventdroit)
A pest extermination campaign is under way on western China’s Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. But experts say there is no scientific basis for the killing of the pika, a small rabbit-like mammal, and warn that the campaign may throw the ecosystem further out of balance.
The culling is part of the second phase of a campaign to protect and strengthen the ecology of Sanjiangyuan (also known as the Three Rivers Source area). As of March 17, it was already 38% complete, with 17.7 millionmu (11,800 square kilometres) covered, according to media reports.
But the value of these efforts has been queried both by experts and the public. Lu Zhi, founder of Chinese NGO the Shan Shui Conservation Center and a professor of conservation at Peking University, says that “this ‘protection’ should be stopped.” She argues that there is no scientific backing for the efforts, and they will simply deliver another blow to the natural balance of the region.
Making the pika a scapegoat
The Sanjiangyuan region lies in the heart of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and is the source of the Yangtze, the Yellow River and the Lancang. It is also one of the most unspoiled and most vulnerable of all the world’s ecosystems. Between the 1970s and 2004, more than 40% of Sanjiangyuan’s grasslands suffered degradation, according to state media agency Xinhua. Pests like the pika took much of the blame: at the peak of infestation, 17% of the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve was affected. This came to be regarded as a major cause of degradation to the grasslands and the ecosystem. [Source]