Big Cat Sanctuary: Massive national park approved by the People’s Republic of China!

When I think of China, bleak images of smog-covered Beijing often come to mind. However, there is an uninhabited, pristine and uniquely wild China that President Xi Jinping wants to show the world. He announced that, as part of China’s vision for an “ecological civilization,” a new national park will protect 5,600 square miles of territory on the border of Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces. That’s an area 60% larger than Yellowstone National Park!

The diverse temperate forest of the area is home to the Amur leopard, the world’s rarest cat (shown above). According to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), only 57 Amur leopards remain in the wild. The extremely endangered Siberian tiger (wild population 400) inhabits the region as well. I’ll be interested to see if China and Russia can cooperate to create a suitable corridor for these big cats.

Chinese tonic herb enthusiasts like myself recognize this pristine region of China, and the nearby Changbai Mountains in particular, as the source of many healthy, world-class tonic herbs and fruits. For example, Ron Teeguarden’s company Dragon Herbs wild harvests goji berries, Schizandra and other plants in these mountains. The taste and quality of Changbai Mountain herbs remain unmatched worldwide, presumably due to the extremely pure spring water, air and soil in the region. The western Changbai Mountains are currently protected as part of Longwanqun National Forest.

Heaven Lake, Changbai Mountains, China

In May 2016, the government of Jilin Province submitted a proposal for this park to the central government of China. President Xi Jinping approved the proposal in March 2017—the park is expected to open as early as January 2020. China’s efforts could help save both the Amur leopard and the Siberian tiger from succumbing to the fate of the South China tiger, which is now extinct and exists only in zoos.

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