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A New Song South of the Clouds for the 2014 Dragon Boat Festival: Reintroduction of Rare Species to Lake Dian

Citizens of Yunnan Province have even more to reason to celebrate at the 2014 Dragon Boat Festival. Traditionally, Dragon Boat celebrates the sacrifice of Qu Yuan, the mythic advisor and poet of Chinese antiquity whose collected work entitled Chuchi, or Song of the South, is widely regarded of some of classical China’s finest poetry, centering around Qu’s devotion to the state and his concern for its future. In the same spirit, YANG Jun-Xing, a researcher at the Kunming Institute of Zoology (KIZ) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has been working for several years to address the environmental degradation of Lake Dian, the largest freshwater lake in Yunnan Province, which has lost numerous endemic species.

Decades of environmental degradation in Yunnan has resulted in marked decline in endemic species in Lake Dian and its surrounding tributaries, with many of the earlier documented species now being extinct. Attempts to restore the lake are often complicated by this lack of native species, leaving researchers with the option of either introducing a non-native species to fill the empty niche, or finding ways to artificially propagate existing samples of species from other locations. As part of a study on artificially propagating endemic species back to Lake Dian, YANG and his team have artificially bred nearly 21,500 fingerlings of Dianchi Sinocyclocheilus, whose wild stock that once inhabited Lake Dian and its surroundings is now on the verge of extinction, with only a small population left located near Longtan Lake. Using these wild populations as a breeding stock, YANG and his team have successively introduced fry into Lake Dian for several years, greatly increasing the wild population in its former native habitat.

YANG’s consistent efforts to rebuild the population of Dianchi Sinocyclocheilus will be aided by further improvements to breeding technology and the gradually recovering ecosystem of Lake Dian, as well as by successive introductions of more fish to the area. Hopefully, this project will serve as a new Song South of the Clouds that highlights the importance of recent conservation efforts and encourages a public mindset of future sustainability for Yunnan.

(By Andrew Willden) 


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