If you plant it, they will come. China is pursuing an ambitious project, underway for decades, to increase the amount of land covered by forests to 23 percent of the country’s total land area by the end of the decade. In addition to the benefits of green space for people, such as cleaner air and improved mental health outcomes, the resurgent forests are also supporting the return of rare animals to habitats from which they had previously disappeared. Using infrared cameras placed in the field at the Ziwuling Forest Area in Yan’an, Shannxi province, northwestern China, researchers at Beijing Normal University have documented the presence of many rare species, including the largest population of North-Chinese leopards ever recorded in the region.
Some of the most notable animals seen in the revitalized Ziwuling Forest include golden pheasants, a beautiful bird that has established feral populations throughout the world. “The nature reserve has a large population of wild boars and roe deer, as well as small and medium-sized carnivorous animals such as ocelots and red foxes,” Feng Limin Feng, associate professor from Beijing Normal University, told China Plus.
The scientists working in the region have documented the presence of 263 different species, including eight critically endangered species and 29 threatened species. This diverse ecological community represents major progress for a region that had suffered from deforestation. “If it was not for environmental protection we’ve undertaken, it’s likely none of these animals would have survived,” Feng said. China’s reforestation represents one piece of its larger project to invest in environmental protection and combat climate change. At the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress, Chinese President Xi Jinping said, “Taking a driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change, China has become an important participant, contributor and torch-bearer in the global endeavor for ecological civilization.”