Wolong Nature Reserve

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 area.

The Wolong Nature Reserve has four general regions:

  1. Mountain slopes covered in deciduous and coniferous forests as well as bamboo groves
  2. River valleys, where most of the people live and farm
  3. High alpine slopes above the tree line where wildflowers grow and yaks live
  4. 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 Wolong Nature Reserve covers 1,999km2 and includes coniferous and deciduous forest, river valleys, alpine slopes, and high glacier-covered mountain peaks.

©K.Feng/GLOBIO.org

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.” 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.

©G.Ellis/GLOBIO.org

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

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 Wo Long.

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 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.

©K.Feng/GLOBIO.org

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 in China. 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.

Tibetan people who live in Wolong graze their yaks in alpine meadows during the summer months.

©K.Feng/GLOBIO.org

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 1,700 invertebrates). 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 year.

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 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.

©K.Feng/GLOBIO.org

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.