Hoh Xil is a glamorous place that many people yearn for. For those of us engaging in protecting nature, becoming one of those having connections with this land carries more of a pilgrimage-like meaning.
Amongst these people, there are explorers such as Sven Hedin, who crossed Hoh Xil a hundred years ago and left behind a large amount of first-hand materials describing the environment; there are heroes like Sonam Dargye, a Tibetan nature reserve keeper; there are non-government institutions whose environmental volunteers from all walks of life and all over the country make significant contributions to Hoh Xil every year; there are scientists who overcome difficulties in pursuit of the truth and there are Tibetan herdsmen who live there. It was from them that I heard for the first time how wild yaks have also disturbed their lives, in addition to the meat-eating wolves and bears: male wild yaks will take the cows into the mountain and the herdsmen have to wait until the end of the rutting season when the yaks aren’t irritable anymore and then they can find their herds.
I went deep into the hinterland of Hoh Xil in 2015 when joining in investigating for the world heritage application. I still remember when getting out of my tent on the lakeside and seeing sun’s rays shine across the clear lake as the sun rose from the snow-covered Bukadaban Mountain. The water mist spurting out from the hot springs enveloped the mountain – it was just like a fairyland. The grassland has already turned green due to nourishment from the hot springs, attracting herds of wild yak, Tibetan gazelle, Tibetan wild donkey and Argali sheep. Not far away were a few prowling wolves that were far more interested in our camp than the grazing animals. They approached our camp with expectation and then retreated further away, probably thinking where these uninvited guests came from. After a few rounds of this, they quietly left.
Two days later we witnessed the courage and craftiness of the Hoh Xil wolves as two wolves hunted and killed an adult wild yak. We arrived just as they started their meal and definitely ruined their fun. Unwilling to give up their spoils, they waited until we were very close, and then they walked off angrily. They stopped around 30-40 meters from the corpse and continued staring at the prey with resentment in their eyes. They were undoubtedly experienced hunters.
They were lucky actually as they had only encountered us instead of a brown bear coveting prey. Not far away was a marmot standing in its hole watching everything unfold.