Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Animal collecting in China's hidden valley

The latest of the Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) expeditions mounted by Conservation International penetrated into the most remote area in all China (technically, in Tibet), the Medog river valley. Getting to the valley required trekking 140km and crossing two mountain passes at 4,200m. Warmed by air currents off the Indian Ocean, the valley offers tropical rainforest conditions in a most unlikely place. Scientists collected hundreds of specimens of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. They are certain new species are among their haul. As Peking University biologist Wang Ho put it, "Medog is not only a biodiversity hotspot, but also the real frontline of scientific discoveries."

COMMENT: Being a field biologist takes a dedication most of us don't think about as we look at animals in books or in zoos. The RAP teams have been all over the world, often risking and occasionally losing their lives in the service of discovery and conservation.

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