Three weeks ago, WWF-China’s Yangtze River conservation programme was honoured to receive a visit from Her Royal Highness Princess Anne in Changsha of Hunan Province.
The visit was held as part of a three-week trip to China to celebrate the 45th Anniversary of UK-China Ambassadorial Ties – and it was encouraging to see freshwater conservation high on a busy agenda of ecological, architectural and cultural activities, openings and events.
During her visit, Princess Anne and her delegates had the opportunity to find out about WWF-China’s long running conservation work – as part of its 15 year history working with partner HSBC – to help protect and preserve the ancient Yangtze River which has been a lifeline to both people and nature in China for thousands of years.
The programme’s objective is to focus on the protection of key wetland ecosystems and flagship species like the Finless porpoise, Père David’s Deer, Chinese surgeon, and Siberian crane. The aim is to create a Yangtze where natural ecosystems, urban and rural communities and industry co-exist healthily and harmoniously.
Key figures like Dr Ren, Yangtze River Programme Director at WWF-China, Dr Davies, Executive Director of Global Programmes at WWF-UK, and Anthony Kam, Executive Vice President at HSBC China, were in attendance during the visit and gave addresses to the audience.
Mr Kam discussed the necessity for the government, research institutions, businesses and the general public to work together with NGOs like WWF in order to continue protecting freshwater sources, manage resources and grow greener finance. “We do so to promote the harmony between human beings and ecology by changing the living and production practices of businesses and individuals.”
Afterwards, the Princess and other distinguished guests were shown around two exhibitions – one focusing on the ‘Living Yangtze’, and the other, “Leaving and Returning”, on the protection of Père David’s Deer.
Once endemic in China, Père David’s Deer (Milu Deer) became extinct more than 100 years ago. In 1985, with the help of WWF, ZSL and other European zoos, and the British government, a group of Père David’s Deer were moved from European countries back to China in batches and released into the nature reserves built for them. Through thirty years of raising, conservation, reproduction and spreading, the number of Père David’s Deer in China increased to more than 5,000 at the last count in 2016, and the population has been gradually released into the wild – a great conservation success. In addition, the country’s largest wild population of Père David’s Deer now lives in one of the key Yangtze Wetlands, Dongting Lake.
A highlight of the visit was the memorandum of understanding (MoU) being signed between China and the UK to mark the reintroduction of Père David’s Deer into China for the first time in over a hundred years. This was witnessed by the Princess Royal, and signed by Deng Sanlong, Director-General of Hunan Province’s Forestry Department and WWF’s Glyn Davies.
WWF-China and HSBC have now begun their next three-year strategic period as part of the HSBC Water Programme. Over the next three years, the dedicated team will work closely on a wide range of areas such as biodiversity conservation, ecological operation of rivers and lakes, the Yangtze fishing ban, effective management of wetlands, and corporate water stewardship – working for a cleaner, healthier Yangtze.
American photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz presents images from an ongoing study of the global water crisis