Hungry bears plague Chinese World Heritage site

BEIJING (Reuters) - Wild black bears are raiding crops and terrorizing villagers in a desperate search for food in a protected part of China’s scenic southwestern province of Yunnan, state media said on Thursday.

The Three Parallel Rivers area, added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2003, has seen its wild bear population increase to an estimated 300 since the government confiscated guns from farmers and banned hunting in the 1990s, Xinhua news agency said.

“Wild black bears have killed more than 20 sheep and destroyed 10 hectares of crops in our villagers,” the report quoted farmer Feng Yuzhong as saying.

The losses amounted to about 100,000 yuan ($13,580), which far exceeds the 600 yuan average annual per capita net income of a local farmer, it added.

Villagers blame the bears’ incursion on the increased environmental protection, the report said.

Faced with a shortage of food in the mountains, the wild bears, a protected species in China, turned to raiding crops in a desperate search for nourishment, the agency added.

Villagers have come up with everything from wind-bells and scarecrows to installing loudspeakers to scare the hungry bears away, but to no avail, Xinhua said.

All farmers now have dogs to keep the bears from ransacking their homes and some are even considering planting crops that bears do not like to eat, it added.

Last month, professional hunting teams from the eastern tourist city of Hangzhou waged a week-long campaign to hunt down wild pigs that have been frightening visitors to its famed West Lake.

($1=7.366 Yuan)

Reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Alex Richardson