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China May Use Wolves To Rein In No Longer So Endangered Blue Sheep

file photo
by Staff Writers
Beijing, China (AFP) Feb 13, 2006
China's effort to protect its wild blue sheep has been so successful that it now plans to employ wolves to preempt a looming population explosion, state media said Monday.

The wild blue sheep, once teetering on the brink of extinction, has lived a sheltered life at the Helan Mountain Natural Reserve in northwest China since 1988, multiplying beyond all previous forecasts, the China Daily reported.

During their 18 years under protection at the reserve, sheep numbers have increased from 1,200 to more than 15,000, suddenly putting much of the reserve's vegetation on the endangered list, according to the paper.

"We think we need to introduce wolves to help control the sheep population," said Cui Duoying, a zoologist at the Huadong Normal University in Shanghai.

"The ecological equilibrium of the area has been seriously affected."

Within the protected confines of the natural reserve, the sheep have almost no natural enemies, but officials plan to change that with the introduction of wolves.

However, experts worry that the fierce carnivores, presented with an all-you-can-eat sheep menu, will themselves start to multiply out of control, presenting the area with a new population problem, the paper said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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