Community-based conservation, unlike the traditional top-down management, focuses on encouraging and promoting button-up grassroots conservation efforts from local communities.
In 2010, a catastrophic earthquake made the world know about Yushu, a mysterious highland city. In 2009, Shan Shui arrived here and began its ecological conservation work throughout the Sanjiangyuan area. Starting with snow leopard research, Shan Shui promoted wildlife monitoring in various places and gradually incorporated community forces into conservation actions. Starting with monitoring, the herders of Sanjiangyuan have gradually become experienced and carried out many conservation actions. With the establishment of Sanjiangyuan National Park, the herders of the Valley of Cats have officially become rangers of the national park.
社区监测 Community Monitoring
高原上的动物们神出鬼没，红外相机网格监测成为了科学家们研究野生动物情况的重要手段。而广漠的草甸、陡峭的高山再加上高原稀薄的空气，都成为需要克服的难点。 好在，高原上的牧民们有着极其适应当地环境的身体素质，对自家放牧区域的动物情况了如指掌，更是对红外相机这一新奇的东西充满了兴趣。于是，经过系统培训后，牧民们正式接过红外相机，开始了监测。 结果是令人鼓舞的。
Wildlife on the Plateau are difficult to find, so infrared camera grid monitoring has become an important tool for scientists to study the status of wildlife. The vast meadows, steep mountains and the thin air of the Plateau are all become difficulties to overcome. Fortunately, the herders on the Plateau have the physical quality of being extremely adapted to the local environment. They know the animals in their own grazing areas well, and are interested in the novelty of infrared cameras. So, after systematic training, the herders officially took over the infrared cameras and started monitoring. The results were encouraging.
在昂赛，通过社区监测首次发现金钱豹与雪豹栖息地的重叠， 并成功识别了40只雪豹个体和12只金钱豹个体； 在嘉塘， 社区监测为我们展示出荒漠猫一家三口的故事； 另外，水獭、棕熊、岩羊等动物，都在社区监测的帮助下，逐渐被我们熟知。
In Angsai, the overlap between the habitat of the snow leopard and that of the common leopard was discovered for the first time through community monitoring, and 40 individual snow leopards and 12 individual common leopards were successfully identified in the process. In Jiatang, community monitoring successfully demonstrated the story of a family of three Chinese mountain cats. Otters, brown bears, blue sheep and other animals are also gradually becoming familiar to people with the help of community monitoring.
目前，在三江源，总共有6个社区肩负科学监测的工作。而在昂赛，已经完成了全乡网格化覆盖， 共有81台相机、78位管理员。 相机位点的选择也需要结合网格和管理员自家草场的位置，便于他们的日常维护。
At present, there are a total of six communities that are responsible for the scientific monitoring in Sanjiangyuan. In Angsai, the monitoring work has reached full coverage of the entire township, with 81 cameras and 78 community monitoring members. The choice of camera locations also needs to fit in with the location of grids and administrators’ pastures to facilitate their daily maintenance.
一户一岗，反盗猎巡护 Nomadic Ecological Rangers
三江源国家公园试点成立后， 一户一岗制度开始推行，简单来说， 就是国家公园内的每一户都选一名成员成为国家公园巡护员，负责反盗猎巡护、野生动物目击记录及垃圾清理等工作， 并接受考核，领取工资。这对于当地人来说无疑是一件好事，即增加了收入，又成为了重要的守护力量。
After the establishment of the Sanjiangyuan National Park pilot project, the “One Ranger per Household” system was carried out. Every household in the national park will have one family member as a national park ranger, responsible for anti-poaching patrol, wildlife sighting records and garbage removal. They will be evaluated and receive salary for such work. This is certainly a good thing for the local people. It increases their income and make the local people an important conservation force.
At present, efforts are made to improve and promote the assessment system of rangers and try to combine the work of patrol and monitoring for those who are responsible for both.
How can community conservation actions be sustainable in the long run? After the local people lose novelty of the infrared camera and taking photos, how can they continue to voluntarily participate in conservation? This is a core challenge in community-based conservation. For this reason, we are trying to encourage long-term sustainable community-based conservation through the model of "Capacity Building - Alternative Livelihoods - Conservation Motivation" in the Valley of the Cats.
社区能力建设 Capacity Building
Capacity building is not just about trainings, learning about wildlife, placing infrared cameras, patrolling, and acting as guides. It is about helping communities build their capacity to self-management and decision-making on their own. From community interviews, meetings, to voting, communities are increasingly expressing their opinions. In Angsai, we worked with community to discuss and develop a management scheme for the nature watch project, and the community elected 4 administrators on their own to oversee community’s public affairs. Other communities have also formed co-management groups that give more autonomy to the community.
人兽冲突基金 Human-wildlife Conflict Fund
In Sanjiangyuan, wolves, brown bears and snow leopards are known as the top three predators of domestic animals, causing considerable losses to local people every year. Since 2016, a “Snow Leopard Insurance Fund” with a total amount of 220,000 RMB has been established in Niandu Village, Angsai Township, through government input, participation of private organizations and insurance for herders. By the end of the pilot project, the fund has compensated for 222 cases of human-wildlife conflict accidents. It has been effective in reducing herders’ losses and moderating herder’s view towards wild animals.
Currently, there are pilot projects of human-wildlife conflict fund in other areas as well. These funds are hoped to fill the gap of market-based insurance and further reduce the losses of local communities in order to alleviate conflicts between human and wild animals.
社区替代生计 Alternative Livelihoods
如何让当地人从保护中直接获益， 自然体验给出了一种可能。 结合雪豹监测活动节律分析及自然观察节的尝试，社区开展了自然体验试点。由当地示范户担任接待家庭和向导，带领游客体验当地的民俗风情、观看野生动物。 全部的收益100%留在社区，采用这样小规模、负责任的生态体验形式，为社区带来直接收益。 截止2020年底，自然体验已经为为社区带来了136.4万元的总收益，其中社区公共基金48.1万元。 另有13.64万元将用于成立野生动物保护基金，来支持当地社区自发的保护行动。
Nature watch offers a possibility that allows local people to benefit directly from conservation. With consideration of the snow leopard monitoring data and experience from nature watch festivals, the community has launched a pilot nature watch program. Local people serve as host families and guides, leading visitors to experience local folklore and view wildlife. All proceeds from the program will be distributed to the community. Such small-scale responsible ecotourism will bring direct benefits to the community. As of the end of 2020, nature watch program has generated 1,364,000 RMB in total revenue for the community, including 481,000 in community public funds. Another 136,400 will be used to establish a wildlife conservation fund to support spontaneous conservation initiatives in local communities.
This model will also be promoted to other communities in the Sanjiangyuan area.