When I spoke to my colleague Jia Liming on the phone last night, she could hardly contain the excitement she felt after visiting Pudacuo National Park in Yunnan’s Shangri-La County. “It’s amazing,” she gushed. “It used to be completely degraded and messy, and now it’s this pristinely beautiful place.”
Jia is currently leading a trip of guests through Yunnan. With a focus on learning more about China’s glaciers and the hidden ethnic minorities in this province, Jia’s trip will take her and our WildChina guests to some of Yunnan’s most spectacular and for some, endangered, sites.
Pudacuo National Park (also known as Potatso National Park) was created in 2008 with the help of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Yunnan. Formerly in the hands of a private developer, this area was devasted after an unsuccessful attempt at breeding carp wiped out local fish populations. The local government then took the land away, and invited TNC to aid in the transformation of this zone into a national park.
Run completely on solar-power, Pudacuo has been both environmentally sustainable and quite lucrative for the region. Jia told me that entrance tickets cost 190 RMB (about $30 USD) per person, and that 60 tourist buses arrive daily. The site sees about 2,000 visitors a day, but has adopted tourism practices that are able to handle the volume of visitors without damaging the park.
Yet while Pudacuo has been by most accounts a success, there is still some hesitation on behalf of local officials about devoting more land to reserves. Chen Jie, Yunnan Program director of The Nature Conservancy described this dilemma in an article in China Daily.
“…nature reserves have strict commercial development restrictions, which actually limits the development of surrounding communities. ‘As most of our reserves are located in the country’s comparatively poor regions, this has intensified the contradiction between conservation and development,’ he says. As a direct result, only one or two counties in Yunnan applied for new reserves in the last three years.”
One of our guests told Jia that the visit to Pudacuo has so far been the highlight of his trip. Jia will be back in the office next week, and I can’t wait to hear more stories from her trip.