Syndicate content

Biodiversity Restoration in Lake Dianchi, China - Part 2: Thanks (and no thanks) to Buddhist believers

Tony Whitten's picture

Black Dragon Spring.
See full photogallery.
A remarkable feature of the distribution of Lake Dianchi’s endemic fish fauna (see previous entry ) is that some of the species are essentially confined to ponds protected by Buddhist temples.  These ponds are fed by freshwater springs coming out of the karst hills which surround parts of the Dianchi Basin. The water is beautifully clear and it is a very special feeling to see such excruciatingly rare and restricted species in such special surroundings.

Visit one of the many Buddhist temples in China and neighboring countries and you are more than likely to see sellers of small caged birds or of baby turtles which believers can release to gain merit.  To be honest, many of the small birds are already stressed and likely dehydrated and don’t live long (and indeed are often re-caught). This is one aspect of the wildlife trade issue in SE Asia, and a few years back we supported a delightful cartoon book on this with the Lao PDR office of the Wildlife Conservation Society and with additional support from the Canada Fund.

In the case of the temples situated around Lake Dianchi the problem species are the Red-eared Slider Turtles (native to the southern USA) and trout (native to a band around the temperate northern hemisphere).  Both can be voracious and indiscriminate feeders and can be final straw for Dianchi endemics.

(Photo courtesy of the KIZ GEF Team)
See full photogallery.
The GEF project team has engaged the Buddhist communities and temple staff over the last few years and together produced not just a book (see pic below) about Buddhist ethics and environmental management  including merit releases for distribution at the temples, but a number of signs around the temples and the lake itself encouraging believers not to consider any releases of non-native species. In addition, the monks at one of the temples took it upon themselves to net and remove trout from their spring.

There are pretty few academic institutions and scientists engaging with Buddhist communities for the sake of conservation, and so hats off to the team for their work and the results.

 

 

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on
I enjoyed both parts very much. But doubt suffuses me after reading "the monks at one of the temples took it upon themselves to net and remove trout from their spring." Say, what exactly did those Buddhist monks do with the trouts ?

I have just heard back from the project office. The Buddhist monks collected the trout and put them into a separate pond in which fishes are released by other believers.

Add new comment