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Places We Protect: Meili Snow Mountain


Greening Meili Snow Mountain Park

Meili Snow Mountain Range is a sacred and beautiful landscape with major ecological value; its forests are vital for endangered snow and clouded leopards, Asiatic black bears and red pandas. While rich in natural resources, this remote area is one of the poorest in China and lacks basic necessities like roads, clean water and waste removal services.

Tourism brings much-needed revenue to the community, but without proper planning and infrastructure, it also has the potential to destroy the pristine landscape and natural beauty that draws people there. The area is approved to be a National Park, but before it can open the existing waste must be removed and an ongoing process for waste removal and safe disposal must be developed.

Threats to a Sacred Landscape

Straddling the Yunnan-Tibet border, the Meili Snow Mountain Range rises steeply between the deep gorges of the Mekong and Salween Rivers. Towering 22,241 feet above sea level, Kawagebo Peak is the tallest mountain in Yunnan Province and is one of eight sacred mountains of Tibetan Buddhism. Moreover, this sacred geography has profound implications for conservation. The extraordinary topographic extremes of the Meili Snow Mountain range — rising from arid canyons to snow-capped peaks — have contributed to the region’s significant biodiversity.

Because of the topographic extremes, the Meili area includes seven climatic zones, creating an incredible diversity of plant and fungi species. In addition to many endangered plant species, the Meili area is home to over 75% of Tibetan medicinal herbs.

Conservation for People

Despite its rich natural resources, this remote area is one of the poorest in all of China. Besides tourism, wood collection for cooking, heating and construction remains a primary threat to biodiversity in Meili, causing habitat destruction and fragmentation.

The Conservancy is committed to meeting the conservation and human development needs of this area and its people. By supporting the creation of a new national park at Meili Snow Mountain, the Conservancy is bolstering China’s fledgling national park program and creating new jobs around carefully planned sustainable ecotourism as well as other locally-relevant sustainable livelihoods. In building the foundation for the park, the Conservancy helped local authorities to complete a master plan for Meili Snow Mountain that places special emphasis on reducing tourism-related threats, including waste.

Keeping Meili Green

The Conservancy's work at Meili Snow Mountain includes:

  • Introducing alternative energy to 21 villages located along the slopes of Meili Snow Mountain and the banks of the Mekong River.
  • Removing 57 tons of waste from the trail to Yubeng Village.
  • Developing a waste reduction and management plan to promote "low-impact tourism" and ensure that new waste does not threaten the landscape and resources of Meili.
  • Ongoing training of local people in natural and cultural resource protection, interpretation, guiding, marketing and business planning.
  • Providing cultural and natural resource management training through community workshops, mentoring and exchanges with other countries' national parks and cultural and historic sites.
  • Working with the Chengdu Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences on a study of the mountain pastoral ecosystem. The information will be used to help animal husbandry agencies improve the quality of the pastures to achieve optimum grazing while protecting ecosystem integrity.
  • Creating community-based medicinal plant preserves with farmers living within the park to sustain the use of medicinal plant resources.
  • Conducting wildlife surveys in the region to inventory occurrences of wildlife in the region.
  • Framing up an ecological monitoring system for the area slated to become Meili Snow Mountain National Park.
  • Demonstrating green buildings with less wood consumption and improved heat efficiency in Yongzhi village. 
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