In the sacred land of his Phag Mo Gling monastery high in China’s snow-capped Southwest Mountains, Bai Ma Za Xi is both spiritual leader and conservationist. He guides more than 50 monks at the monastery and a school they run, and also records bird species in the forest in Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan Province.
The dual role helps fill a void prevalent in rural China, where efforts to protect parks and other reserves have suffered from a general lack of government resources and attention. CI is working with monasteries, local officials and communities in Ganzi prefecture to develop effective community-based conservation programs that protect the flora and fauna of the region’s sacred mountains.
Li Shengzhi, the CI program officer in Sichuan Province, explained how many of China’s protected areas amounted to “paper parks” due to the inability of the central and local governments to properly staff and manage them. Despite that problem, he said, biodiversity remained high and wildlife thrived in the sacred lands of the Tibetan border region, where reverence for nature is part of the local population’s Buddhist culture.
ARTICLE: Tibetan Buddhists Tap Into Cultural Reverence for Nature.
Capitalizing on the inherent conservation ethic, CI and local partners surveyed 67 monasteries throughout the 15-million-hectare (37-million-acre) Ganzi prefecture to identify more than 200 sacred mountains and lakes. CI efforts and collaboration with local governments, monasteries and communities helped pave the way for local officials to transfer some authority over the sacred lands to monasteries and communities. CI also worked with local governments and entities such as the Yajiang Forestry Bureau to provide training for monks and local residents in species monitoring and other aspects of conservation.
In addition, CI also helped develop local ecotourism to create economic benefit from the conservation efforts. One of the tourism projects is the Bible Country Domestic House, a rustic Tibetan-style home stay run by Bai Ma Za Xi’s monastery.
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