by Tom Barnes
Conservation doesn’t stop at the borders of the US — protecting the diversity of wildlife and habitat is an international responsibility.
That’s where Sharon Marino steps in. As the Deputy Regional Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System in the Northeast, Marino was part of a delegation that included six members of the Service and one employee from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The delegation met with provincial administrators, park staff and representatives of China’s State Forestry Administration to work together on protecting China’s diverse wetland environments.
For two weeks in November, the delegation toured sites from the Yunnan Province to the Guangxi Province, often running on a tight schedule hiking trails and meeting with Chinese colleagues. Over the course of the trip, Marino climbed mountains, visited impressive wetlands and saw snub-nosed monkeys and white-headed langurs, some of the rarest primates in the world.
“The trip was really a life-changing experience, I learned a lot from many amazing people,” Marino says.
The nature reserves and wetland parks that the delegation toured are essential for the conservation of wetland species and wildlife — especially to hundreds of rare or declining species — and to supporting the quality of life for people.
At Baima Snow Mountain National Nature Reserve, Marino found coals from a fire that were left over from a ranger camp the night before. The park is developing a monitoring program for plants and animals, a rescue center for wildlife rehabilitation, and a pilot program that helps local villagers protect forest lands. As it turns out, over 50 rangers patrol the forest to help protect the rare Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys.
The conservation of these rare primates is taken seriously. Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys are listed as endangered in China, mainly due to habitat loss — their primary diet consists of lichens, which grow on dead trees, but this deadwood usually gets harvested and cleared.
Marino also visited two reserves in the Guangxi province designated for the protection of white-headed langurs, another endangered species of monkey. Again, hunting and habitat loss are the primary threats to this critically endangered species — and these threats are of course ununique to the region.
It’s through collaboration that we can reach an international goal of sustainable conservation practices. By sharing ideas and exchanging perspectives, we can improve the conversation about protecting nature’s diversity. Marino’s wetlands delegation to China this past November is one example of that necessary exchange.
This post originally appeared in Conserving the Nature of the Northeast.