Places We Protect: Shangri-La Gorge

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
True to its name, Shangri-La Country is a breathtaking place, where the Hengduan Mountains form a backdrop for a land rich in scenic beauty. At Shangri-La Gorge, a globally recognized area for natural diversity, steep cliffs and gorges climb 11,000 feet from the banks of the Gangqu River. The Shangri-La Gorge area is comprised of dozens of smaller gorges, all created over the course of thousands of years by alpine rivers that sliced their way through the limestone and red sandstone rock below. Six different climatic zones exist here, ranging from sub-tropical zones to cold temperate and alpine zones.

Threats to Shangri-La Gorge include unsustainable timber collection, unplanned and unmanaged tourism development and overgrazing. In this remote mountain area, it is estimated that a family of four uses up to six tons of fuel wood for cooking and heating each year, putting extreme pressure on the area’s natural resources.

The broad range in altitude and temperature provides habitat for a dazzling array of plants. Shangri-La Gorge contains some of the best remaining oak forests in Yunnan and at least 2,000 other plant species, including many herbs used in traditional Tibetan medicine.

Many different mammals live within or migrate through the gorge, including the endangered red panda and the musk deer. Our surveys found that 30 of the 92 mammal species (32 percent) and 32 of the 152 bird species (21 percent) identified in the gorge are listed as protected species in China.

Our Conservation Strategy
Together with the Kunming Institute of Zoology and other partners, the Conservancy has already conducted geology, geography, soil, vegetation and wildlife surveys to collect baseline information for the design and management of a protected area in Shangri-la Gorge. The Conservancy’s conservation area planning process has identified high priority species and areas for protection, as well as strategies for conservation action.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The Conservancy's contributions to Shangri-La include:

  • Working with Chinese government partners to gather additional information on threats to Shangri-La’s biodiversity and begin designing a long-term monitoring plan for the area.
  • Launching an alternative energy program which provides alternative sources of energy such as biogas and solar heaters to reduce fuel wood use and alleviate the burden of fuel wood collection on local villagers.
  • Together with the Diqing Prefecture Government, sponsoring the first-ever Conference on Tibetan Traditional Culture and Biodiversity Conservation in Shangri-La town (Zhongdian). More than 100 participants representing senior scholars, government officials, local non-governmental organizations and communities were in attendance.
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