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Kum Su Spring Disaster
Wild Bactrian Camel News - as updated by www.wildcamels.com founder, John Hare

On November 11th 2005, John Hare returned from an expedition/survey of the wild Bactrian camel in China in the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve. The expedition was undertaken with Chinese scientists from the Nature Reserve and Mongolian scientists, who for the first time had been allowed to enter Lop Nur, China's former nuclear test site. The journey was a 450 mile round trip using domestic Bactrian camels to travel through the foothills of the Arjin and Kunlun mountains in Xinjiang province. These mountains run east to west for over 500 miles and at one point form the southern boundary of the Reserve, recently upgraded by China to a National Reserve with the same status as the Giant Panda Reserve and with national laws governing its regulation. The mountains also form the northern escarpment of the Tibet plateau.

In 1999, on a National Geographic sponsored trip John Hare and his team 'discovered' two hidden valleys in the Arjin mountains and an unmapped desert spring called Kum Su. This was remarkable as it was a fresh water spring. In the 175,000 square kilometer Nature Reserve, which the Wild Camel Protection Foundation, helped the Chinese to establish in their former nuclear test area, there is no fresh water, only salt water which the wild Bactrian camel has adapted to drinking. In the two valleys were what are called by naturalists, 'naive' populations of wildlife, i.e. wildlife that has in fear of man because it has not experienced man. There were wild Argali sheep, the wild Tibetan ass, the Tibetan bear and wild Bactrian camels.

The objective of this recent trip was to return to Kum Su from east to west (the team had previously traveled from west to east) and to spend at least three days observing and photographing the wildlife in an area which was a Garden of Eden. On their arrival at Kum Su on camels, the Garden of Eden had been turned into a Valley of Death. Illegal miners had taken up occupancy for two years and had used potassium cyanide to extract gold from rock. The result is devastating, the virgin spring and the vegetation have been poisoned. The team found 74, 4-gallon-drums of opened cyanide and 7 drums of unopened cyanide. A terrorist could poison a whole city with a cupful of cyanide added to the water supply. The team could not bring the unopened drums back because their camels were already heavily laden. Skeletons of wildlife showed what had happened to the 'naive' population. They had been shot.

Cyanide and guns are illegal in China and yet evidence of both were found in a National Nature Reserve. Colleagues from Xinjiang, Professor Yuan Guoying and others were shattered by what they saw. Representations are being made to the Chinese government at the highest level.

For more info on wild camels: www.wildcamels.com

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