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Reviving a Species

The North China Leopard was once heading for extinction, until conservation efforts brought its numbers up. But for how long?

The North China Leopard

A leopard takes a drink in Shanxi Province, 2016
Photo by cfp

In the spring of 2016, when Wei Shuanbing, a villager in northern China, was working on his family cornfield, an adult leopard jumped down from the slope of a nearby mountain, padded across the road, and ambled up the slope of the base of the next mountain. “A couple of other villagers were around, and we all saw the leopard at that exact moment,” recalled Wei to ChinaReport in mid-May. Heshun county is near Jinzhong City in China’s northern Shanxi Province, some 400 kilometres southwest of Beijing.

Wei and fellow villager Er Bao met another leopard a few days before, in the mountain forest. There had been no sightings of leopards by locals for the past two decades. The personal encounter of the big cat reminds Wei of his almost forgotten teenage memories, before the mid-1980s, when it was common for him to spot leopards in the surrounding mountains. “The leopards were not afraid of humans and they never ever attacked humans as far as I know,” Wei told our reporter during a recent telephone interview, “In most cases, they would walk away indifferently when I met them.”

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About China Report

The Belt and Road forum held in Beijing in May heralds China's strategy of globalisation 2.0. How much China has invested in the BRI? How can other countries along the routes join in and benefit from the opportunities? (p.20-25) Technologically China has often been perceived as playing the catch-up game. Not in Artificial Intelligence, which the country's tech giants are spearheading with some success. (p. 34-43) A migrant worker has taken the country by storm in her Dickensian essay about her hard life in modern Beijing. (p.52-55)