Pastoralists and wildlife conservation in western China: collaborative management within protected areas on the Tibetan Plateau
Background Pastoralists have long inhabited vast areas of western China, including the Tibetan Plateau region. Their traditional land use practices and cultural conservation ethic have helped to protect the natural resource base upon which they depend and the wildlife that co-exist with them in the grassland landscapes. However, in a rapidly changing socio-economic environment, including significant expansion of the protected area system and regional comprehensive development plans, local communities do not always have an evident voice in the conservation and development dialogues that closely affect their lives.
With introduction and development of collaborative management - that is, a partnership between local communities, nature reserve authorities and other stakeholders - a landscape-level approach to conservation is now being modelled in Qinghai Province. Central to effective co-management are bi-directional relationships. There are also a wealth of direct and indirect services that may be provided by pastoralists under co-management, and in the compensation and payment options available to them in return for their critical services.
As this paper concludes, the contributions of pastoralists to wildlife conservation efforts are significant, but up to now insufficiently recognised. New insights regarding the relationship between pastoralists and wildlife conservation - including the potential role of community ecotourism, the development of local herders' cooperatives and of trust funds, and the need for greater clarity in local regulatory frameworks - are provided herein, with presentation of specific experiences and lessons learned from a project piloted in the headwaters of the Yangtze River over the past decade. A fuller, richer model of co-management is recommended.