David Rennie / Beijing / March 14, 2001
CHINESE troops are on anti-wolf patrols in the far west region of Xinjiang where the worst winter for 50 years has driven packs out of the mountains and on to plains where livestock graze. According to the Red Cross Society of Xinjiang, the freezing weather has killed 31 people in the predominantly Muslim region and 33 have gone missing in blizzards. Others have died in neighboring Inner Mongolia and Mongolia. Now, herdsmen and their families in Xinjiang are banding together with army garrisons to fight off wolves, which have eaten 1,500 sheep in one prefecture alone. Wolves have also attacked endangered antelope in the Kalamaili Mountain Nature Preserve. The antelope can normally outrun predators with ease, but they are starving and cannot sprint through deep snow. Temperatures are now rising in northern regions after reaching -40C, but a thaw raises the risk of floods.