A Safe Place in the Mountains
The Wolong Nature Reserve is located high
in the mountains of western China's Sichuan Province. It was set up in 1963.
Wolong is home to over 6,000 species of plants and animals. It is one of the
last protected homes of the giant
panda, red panda, takin, and golden snub-nose monkey. Wolong contains lush
deciduous and evergreen temperate
forests and high, ice-covered mountains. Wolong is a UNESCO “Man & Biosphere” protected
The Wolong Nature Reserve has four general regions:
- Mountain slopes covered in deciduous and coniferous forests
as well as bamboo groves
- River valleys, where most of the people live and farm
- High alpine slopes
above the tree line where wildflowers grow and yaks live
- 20 glacier-covered
mountain peaks over 4,000
m above sea level
The Wolong Nature Reserve covers 1,999km2 and includes coniferous and deciduous
forest, river valleys, alpine slopes, and high glacier-covered mountain peaks.
The Legend of Wolong
Wo Long means “sleeping dragon.” The people of Wolong
built a long dragon wall to represent their legend about a dragon who fell
asleep in Wolong and never woke up.
Wo Long means “sleeping dragon” and
is a description of the mountainous peaks surrounding the Pitiao River valley.
These mountains run through the center of the Wolong Nature Reserve. The local
Qiang people believe a giant dragon came wandering through the valley and fell
in love with the beauty of the mountains and trees. The dragon decided to go
to sleep and then never woke up.
The People of Wolong
Four ethnic groups of people live in and
around Wolong Nature Reserve: Qiang, Tibetans, Han Chinese, and Hui.
The Qiang people are the main ethnic group living in the Reserve. They have
lived in the region for several thousand years. They live in the main Pitiao
River valley that runs from northeast to southwest through Wolong. Older people
still wear traditional clothing of blue and white cloth, goatskin vests, and
cloth head wrappings. The Qiang are famous for their embroidered cloth belts
and crafts. Most Qiang are farmers. Some raise honeybees. Others run small
shops and restaurants in the reserve’s two main villages, Geng Da and
The Qiang people are the main ethnic group living in Wolong. They are well
known for their embroidery and crafts. They sell their brightly colored,
embroidered belts in local markets.
The Qiang travel into the high mountains during the summer months. They bring
their beehives so the honeybees can collect pollen from
summer flowers. In these high mountains, they meet many Tibetans who still
herd their yaks in the summer pastures.
A Very Diverse Place
Wolong is a beautiful place full of rare
mammals, beautiful birds,
insects, and plants found nowhere else in the world. Wolong Nature Reserve
covers an area of 1,999
km2 and contains 17% of the biodiversity found
This means it is an extremely important place to protect. Since 1963, the Wolong
Nature Reserve has been protected by law. Hunting and logging are
not allowed. Collecting plants in the forest is controlled and regulated.
Tibetan people who live in Wolong graze their yaks in alpine meadows during
the summer months.
A Protected Place for Endangered Species
Rare wildlife and plants live in Wolong Nature Reserve. In addition to the
giant panda, other endangered species
like the snow leopard, red
panda, golden snub-nose monkey, Asiatic black bear, and dove tree survive
in Wolong. Wolong is home to over 6,000 species (4,000 plants, 450 vertebrates, and
Other species such as yaks and goats are herded by local Tibetan people in
Wolong’s high mountains.
The Four Seasons
Wolong has four distinct seasons. In the
spring, from April to June, the steep mountain slopes are covered with the
bright purple and pink blossoms of rhododendron trees. Summer lasts from June
to September. It is warm and humid in the valleys and clear in the high mountains.
Occasionally, sudden summer snowstorms occur in the mountains. Fall begins
in October, when leaves begin turning red, yellow, and orange. Visitors come
from all over the world to see the beautiful scenery. Few people visit Wolong
in the winter when it is cold and wet. Snow falls in the mountains, but often
it only rains in the valleys. Wolong receives over 170
cm of precipitation each
Working to Help Animals
Wolong is most famous for its giant pandas.
To help pandas survive, the Chinese government and other concerned groups built
a special breeding center inside the Wolong Nature Reserve. The center is called
the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.
The Center cares for several red pandas and over 50 captive giant pandas.
Many were rescued after an injury or illness. Each year new giant panda babies
are born to female pandas at the center. Scientists study the captive pandas
to learn more about how wild panda mothers raise their babies. The scientists
hope this information will help save pandas from extinction.
The Center is the most successful facility in the world for breeding giant
pandas. Most of the giant pandas in zoos around the world come from Wolong.
Working to Help the Environment
The China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda is the most
successful center for breeding and caring for endangered giant pandas. The
keepers and staff members at the Center take good care of the baby pandas.
They care for them from birth until they are old enough to be on their own.
The Conservation Center also conducts important
research on the surrounding environment. Scientists believe it is important
to understand the whole environment and all its species. For example, scientists
study the bamboo groves around Wolong. Bamboo is the favorite food of both
the giant panda and red panda. By looking at “the big picture,” scientists
can make better decisions about how to save the giant panda and other endangered
plants and animals.