One of the most biologically diverse regions in China and the world, Yunnan province is home to a disproportionate amount of China's animal species – many of which are endangered. According to the Yunnan Provincial Environmental Protection Bureau, Yunnan is home to more than 59 percent of China's endangered animal species.
Not surprisingly, most of landlocked Yunnan's endangered animals such as the red panda, the Yunnan golden monkey, Asian elephant and the black crested gibbon are terrestrial creatures. However, Yunnan is covered with lakes of varying sizes and altitudes – these lakes also contribute to the province's biodiversity.
Unfortunately, many of the fish species found in Yunnan's lakes – many of which are only found in Yunnan – are also endangered, primarily due to overfishing and pollution, especially pesticide runoff. Yunnan's lakes are home to 60 species found nowhere else in the world.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences and Kunming Institute of Zoology (KIZ) recently released a joint appeal to protect the remaining fish species indigenous to Yunnan. Surprisingly, many of these alpine fish species can only be found in pools located within the thousands of Buddhist temples throughout the province.
For example, according to a study by KIZ – a branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences – all 25 indigenous fish species in Dianchi Lake are extinct within the lake itself but still exist in the pools of Buddhist compounds bordering the lake. Dianchi is Yunnan's largest lake and the sixth-largest freshwater lake in China.
In an unusual mix of religion and environmental protection, the KIZ report calls upon provincial authorities to protect the pools at Buddhist temples in the area and the fish which populate them. As Xinhua puts it:
"On the basis of the survey, the shrines should be made a protection sites for rare and indigenous aquatic life and protective measures should be drafted in an early date. And a publicity drive has to be launched so as to beef up the public's awareness of the conscious protection and all society's participation."
Dragon pool image: Xinhua