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Hiker perishes in Wolong restricted area

By Huang Zhiling in Chengdu | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-06-18 13:45

A woman hiker perished while trespassing in a restricted area with wild giant pandas in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Wenchuan, a county within the Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture of Sichuan province.

Wang, a 46-year-old from Sichuan's neighboring Chongqing municipality, died in a falling accident. Her body was found at the bottom of a cliff more than 100 meters high and 4,500 meters above sea level, and was retrieved on Sunday.

On Wednesday afternoon, police in Wolong were notified by Aba prefecture police somebody with a satellite telephone had called the latter, saying seven hikers had attempted to enter the restricted core area of Wolong.

The caller said Wang was found missing on Wednesday morning. The group searched and discovered her remains.

On Thursday morning four policemen from Wolong and Wenchuan county, together with 14 villagers, headed for the site where Wang was reported to have perished.

As the mountain path was muddy and slippery, the 18 people arrived at the site at around 11 am on Friday. Estimated time of death was around 11 am on Sunday, according to a statement from the Wolong National Nature Reserve Administration.

The six surviving hikers each were fined 5,000 yuan ($722) in line with the Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Nature Reserves and paid for their medical expenses.

As Wang perished, she was not fined. But the cost of transporting her body to the foot of the mountain was paid by her family. Wang's family members and the six hikers have since left Wolong, the statement said.

Wolong, a major habitat of wild pandas, is home to the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda which boasts nearly 60 percent of the world's captive pandas.

Since 2008, police in Wolong have conducted more than 10 search and rescue operations to help hikers asking for assistance in the restricted core area of the reserve, according to Wolong police officer Liu Qilin.

As the incidence of illegal trespassing is on the rise, the reserve's administration has installed iron fences around the restricted core area. But some fences have been forced open by hikers, an anonymous source in the administration said.

Sichuan has more than 200 mountains over 4,000 to 7,000 meters high. Many have complicated terrain, and the weather can change quickly, making mountaineering difficult and sometimes dangerous.

Unlike some foreign countries which permit a certain number of hikers and climbers to access restricted core areas of the mountains, China denies all hikers and climbers access. As a result, some hikers and climbers do not register with mountaineering associations, said Gao Min, deputy secretary general of the Sichuan Provincial Mountaineering Association.

"When they are in danger, associations cannot offer timely help," he said.

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