4. Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve
Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve was established in 1958 with the object of protecting local tropical
forests, rare plants and animals. Although the reserve covers less than 0.2 per cent of the total land area of China,
there are more than 4,000 species of higher plants (12 per cent of China’s total flora), of which about 1,000 can
be utilized by man. There are well over 600 species of vertebrates, of which 100 are under special protection.
The area thus has one of the greatest diversities of species in China and is of great importance to the maintenance
of regional biodiversity.
4.1 Protected area level assessment
Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve is designated by the State Council, and placed under IUCN
management category IV. The Yunnan Department of Forestry is the agency responsible for the reserve. It also
gives technical support concerning plantations and improving living conditions. The long-term German project
('Tropical Ecosystem Management') has just started in Xishuangbanna (Mangao and Mengla) and in Nabanhe
reserves. It mostly provides technical support and training courses. The Management Bureau as well as the
Research Institute of the reserve is located in Jinghong. In addition, there are five management stations (one in
each division) and seven forest police stations (one in each division, with the exception of Mengyang and Mengla
reserves, which have two). These stations are principally located in the towns nearest to the reserves. The
Management Bureau has a total staff of 234 (1998) including 32 forest police and 34 technical persons. In
addition, local manpower is recruited from villages within or adjacent to the reserves.
There are 112 villages within or adjacent to the reserve, of which the total human population is 18,867 (data from
1994). Xishuangbanna Reserve is inhabited by more than 10 different ethnic groups including Dai, Hani, Bulang,
Lahu, Yao, Yi, Aini and Kuchong, with Dai making up the majority.
4.3 Physical geography
The reserve is located in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, between 99°56’-101°50’E, and 21°08’
-22°36’N. It consists of five divisions: Mengyang, Menglun, Mengla, Shangyong and Mangao (see the map
attached), which cover an area of about 2,400 km2 in total (more than 10 per cent of the area of the
Xishuangbanna Prefecture). Each division is zoned into core area(s) and buffer zones.
The climate of Xishuangbanna is dominated by southwest monsoon with high rainfall from May to October and
low rainfall from November to April, so there is a well-defined division of wet and dry seasons. The mean annual
temperature in Jinghong County, the capital of Xishuangbanna, is 21.7° C; the mean temperature during the
coldest month (January) is 15.5° C. Annual precipitation is 1,221 mm, but more than 85 per cent falls during the
rainy season. The minimum monthly rainfall is 9.4 mm (in February).
The Lancang River with more than 20 tributaries (the upper course of the Mekong) flows through the area,
resulting in many river valleys and small basins. The main tributaries are the Luosuo, Nanla, Liusha and Nanlaa
Rivers. The terrain of Xishuangbanna stands higher in the east, north and west than in the middle, tilting gradually
from north to south. The valleys vary in depth from 500 to 1,000 meters. The highest elevation is 2,429 and the
lowest 475 meters.
4.4 Primary forest vegetation of Xishuangbanna
Tropical rainforests are principally distributed in the tropical wet lowlands of the world, where the temperature of
the coldest month is over 18°C and the mean rainfall for the driest month is more than 50 mm. As a result of being
dominated by a monsoon climate, however, rainforests in continental Southeast Asia can show pronounced
seasonal trends. Some tree species are partially deciduous in the dry season; in China areas where this occurs are
referred to as tropical seasonal rainforests. In comparison with typical rainforest zones, Xishuangbanna is cooler
and has lower rainfall, but there are 100 foggy days in the dry season, which increase air humidity and
compensate for shortage of rainfall (Zhang & Cao, 1995).
There are five primary forest vegetation types in Xishuangbanna: tropical seasonal (monsoon) forest, tropical
montane rainforest, subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest, monsoon forest over limestone and monsoon
forest on riverbanks. The first four forest types form the principal framework of natural forest vegetation, whereas
monsoon forest on riverbanks has been cleared or influenced by intense human activities. Among the first four
vegetation types, tropical seasonal rainforest and evergreen broad-leaved forest occupy relatively large areas—
the latter accounting for 80 per cent of the total forest area. Tropical montane rainforest and monsoon forest over
limestone are very scattered. The primary forests have been greatly disturbed by man during the last 30 years.
4.5 Secondary vegetation of Xishuangbanna
The tropical forests of Xishuangbanna have been reduced from 60 per cent of the area in the early 1950s to only
32 per cent at present. Since 1950s, there have been three major periods of deforestation, the first one in the
1950s, the second in the early 1970s, and the last in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Si-yu, 1990.) Deforestation
of this area was mainly caused by establishment of farmlands for permanent or shifting cultivation and plantations
of rubber or tropical fruit trees, as well as collection of firewood and demand for timber by the local inhabitants.
Some of the cultivated areas have been abandoned after short-term utilization, and different secondary plant
communities have developed. Some communities with good water supplies and good soils can recover naturally if
there is no further severe damage over a long period, but some cannot because of repeated clearance and
burning. The main secondary vegetation types are secondary deciduous monsoon forest, secondary savannah
woodland, bamboo forest, secondary grassland and Chromolaena odoratum community (Zhang & Cao, 1995).
Xishuangbanna lies at the transitional zone between the floras of Malaya, Indo-Himalaya, and South China and
therefore harbors a large number of plant species. The tropical features of Xishuangbanna’s flora are quite
distinct. Such tropical families as Dipterocarpaceae, Myristicaceae, Tetramelaceae, Annonaceae and Dilleniaceae,
and genera such as Ficus, Artocarpus, Antiaris and Dysoxylum are represented. About 60 per cent of the species
of Xishuangbanna’s flora also occur in Viet Nam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and India. There are 153 endemic, 31
relict and 133 rare species growing in Xishuangbanna, of which 110 are endangered or vulnerable. In addition, 28
wild types of cultivated plant species and their relatives occur. Some of these may prove to have significant value
in genetic research and breeding. More than 1,000 species are economically important: about 500 are medicinal
plants. More than 100 trees are fast growing or produce high-quality timber. More than 100 species yield oil, 10
species (Calamus spp.) yield rattan, and many species are aromatic or yield resin, tannins or gum (Shou-qing,
Because of the wide variety of habitats there is high bird and mammal diversity in Xishuangbanna. In total there
are 427 bird species and sub-species, with 301 residents and over 100 summer migrants. This is 40 per cent of
all bird species in China. Almost 80 of these species are on IUCN's threatened species list, including raptors such
as greater spotted eagle (Aquila clanga), rufous-necked hornbill (Aceros nipalensis) and green peafowl (Pavo
muticus). The avifauna of the area is predominantly Oriental, showing only two per cent Palearctic affinity.
The mammal fauna of Xishuangbanna resembles that of the Southeast Asian tropical zone. There are 102 species,
which is 22 per cent of all the mammal species of China, and 42 per cent of Yunnan. The best-known species of
the area are Asian elephant, tiger, leopard, Indian bison or gaur (Bos gaurus) and several primates such as black
gibbon (Hylobates concolor), Phayre’s leaf monkey (Presbytis phayrei), slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) and four
macaque species (Macaque arctoides, M. assamensis, M. mulatta and M. nemestrina). There are approximately
250-300 elephants in Xishuangbanna. The following rare or endangered species can be found in all divisions of
the Xishuangbanna reserves; Indian bison, leopard, Asian black bear, Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) and
4.8 Divisions of the Xishuangbanna Reserve
4.8.1. Mengyang Reserve (998 km2)
Mengyang is the largest division of Xishuangbanna, located 43 km north of Jinghong. The western boundary of
the reserve follows the Lancang River, whereas the eastern follows the Xiaoheijiang River (tributary of Luosuo).
Elevations vary from about 500 to 1,800 meters. The reserve is divided in buffer zones (in the southwest and
central parts) and core areas, both being of approximately equal sizes. Any bus traveling north from Jinghong
passes the reserve. The nearest town to the reserve is Mengyang, where Chinese tourists stop to see a banyan
tree (Ficus benghalensis) shaped like an elephant. In the part of the reserve called Sanchahe there already exist
facilities for tourists, including a restaurant, canopy tree houses, cable car, elephant performances, etc. About
200,000-300,000 tourists (mainly Chinese) visit the area each year. Nearby villages derive no benefit from
The main primary vegetation types in the reserve are subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest and tropical
monsoon forest. There are bamboo forests (for example, Dendrocalamus membranaceus) particularly on the west
banks of the Lancang River below 1,000 meters. Open forests and shrub lands are extensive along the
southeastern boundary. Tree species of special interest include Pometia tomentosa (Sapindaceae), Terminalia
myriocarpa (Combretaceae), Cleistanthus sumantranus (Euphorbiaceae), Semecarpus reticulata (Anacardiaceae)
and Sladenia celastrifolia (Theaceae). The two first-named are regarded as threatened species.
There are 283 bird species, which is the highest number for all the divisions of Xishuangbanna (although in Mengla
there were almost as many). But, during the three-day survey, only a small fraction were seen or heard (see
Appendix 1.). The significant species inhabiting the reserve include green peafowl, which is vulnerable under
IUCN's threat classification, and the large-sized hornbill species great hornbill (Buceros bicornis).
Among the 59 mammal species several are endangered or rare. In addition to the significant species inhabiting all
the Xishuangbanna reserves there are Asian elephant, tiger and clouded leopard in Mengyang reserve. All are on
IUCN's threatened species list. There are also four primates with two macaques (Macaca mulatta and M.
assamensis), slow loris and Phayre’s leaf monkey.
There has been high hunting pressure especially on Indian muntjac, sambar and wild boar. Silver pheasant and red
jungle fowl have been the most hunted birds. Now that there are no guns, hunting has considerably decreased and
is done mostly by trapping. Villagers fish in the nearby rivers in the both visited villages. Only small fishes are
caught by electricity and by net.
There is significant human activity including 45 villages within or adjacent to the reserve with an estimate of 700
inhabitants representing several ethnic groups.
Two villages were visited.
Xinlongshan (mixed population, mainly Jinuo minority; 126 inhabitants)
Located in the eastern side of the reserve by the Nanding River (tributary of Luosuo). The mountain road is hardly
passable by any means other than local two-wheeled tractor. It takes five to six hours from Mengyang town to
reach the village. There are electricity (since 1994) and piped water in the village. The total amount of land is 1.4
hectares per person. Given favorable weather conditions, it is possible to grow two crops of rice per year. The
main sources of income are Amomum villosum cultivation and rubber trees. According to the head of the village, a
tunnel from the nearby river will be built by a GTZ project, which will increases the area suitable for paddy rice.
The nearest primary school is a three-hour walk from the village.
Jiangbianzai (Yi-minority, 148 inhabitants)
Located in the western side of the reserve, where the Mengyang enters the Lancang River, 36 km from
Mengyang town. It takes 4-5 hours along a dirt road by tractor but less by jeep. On the other hand, the village
can be reached by boat along the Lancang River (35 kilometers from Jinhong). From there it is less than a one-
kilometer walk from river to village. There is no electricity or piped water. Water comes along bamboo pipes
from a natural reservoir above the village but getting enough water during the dry season (4-5 months a year) is
problematic. Paddies (0.1 hectare per person) produce one crop of rice each year. Main sources of income are
Amomum seeds, bamboo and corn. There is a primary school but providing for only the two first years of
schooling. Thereafter children go to boarding school, an hour away by tractor. There are no healthcare services,
and malaria was reported to be common during the rainy season. There are plans to build a dam 30 kilometers
southwards in Lancang River. If this goes ahead, the village will be inundated.
4.8.2. Mangao Reserve (ca. 73 km2)
This reserve is situated in the westernmost part of Xishuangbanna and is easily accessible from the nearest town,
Menghai, by bus or jeep. It is a two and a half hours by bus from Jinghong. The highest peak (Shidaimao) stands
at 1,700 meters. There are seven villages within or adjacent to the reserve. A viewing tower is available for public
use, such as for bird watching.
The main forest types in the reserve are subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest, tropical monsoon forest in the
southernmost part, patches of montane tropical forest and coniferous forest dominated by single species, Pinus
kesiya var. langbianensis. There are shrub lands and open forests along the boundary.
The total number of bird species is 242, but during the one-day survey only 10 were spotted. The reserve harbors
significant species like green peafowl and greater spotted eagle, both of which are on IUCN's threatened list.
There are 61 recorded mammal species in the reserve. In addition to Indian bison and leopard, there are clouded
leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Asiatic golden cat (Catopuma temminckii), wolf (Canis lupus) and macaques
(Macaque arctoide and M. mulatta). All are threatened species.
Hunting continues by bows and arrows and by traps in Mangao. Besides the Indian muntjac and wild boar,
masked palm civet (Paguma larvata) and pheasants are among the most hunted species. Near the reserve there
are fishponds, where most of the fishing is practiced. One small river was poisoned because of the widespread
use of pesticides in cultivation, and there are no fish now.
Three villages were visited.
Mangun (Dai minority, 580 inhabitants)
Located by the road to Menga, eight kilometers from Menghai town, on the boundary of the reserve near a small
river (a tributary of the Liusha). There are electricity and piped water. The main cash crops are sugar cane and
tea. There are also cattle (more than 60 head), which are sold for extra income. There is a primary school and a
Wengnan (Dai minority, 400 inhabitants)
Located by the road to Menga 10 kilometers from Menghai town, close to the reserve. There are electricity
(since 1982) and piped water (since 1981). There is 0.1 hectare of paddy per person. The main cash crops are
sugar cane and tea. Rice is sold occasionally. There is no primary school but a Buddhist temple and temple school
are in the village. Two persons are responsible for simple healthcare.
Nasai (Lahu minority, 220 inhabitants, established 1979)
Located by the road to Menga, nine kilometers from Menghai town, close to the reserve. There are electricity
(1984) and piped water (1986). There is 0.1 hectare of paddy per person although not enough for all households.
The main cash crops are sugar cane and tea. The distance to the nearest school and health services is one and a
half kilometers. Only 10 per cent of the inhabitants are literate.
4.8.3. Menglun Reserve (106 km2)
Located 80 kilometers east of Jinghong in the catchment of the Luosuo River, around Menglun town, which can
be reached from Jinghong by an approximately two-hours' bus ride. The major attraction of Menglun is the
Tropical Botanical Garden (993 hectares), where over 2,000 species of tropical plants have been introduced. The
Ex Situ Conservation Site (90 hectares), which was established in 1974 by the garden and contains some 200
rare and endangered plant species, was visited. Another tourist attraction is the Green Stone Forest. The latter is
a patch of monsoon forest over limestone, with paved paths. There are some individual Tetrameles nudiflora
(Tetramelaceae), with huge buttresses and strangler figs, which are of special interest to tourists. They grow to 40
meters tall, occur typically in limestone forests and are regarded as threatened. The Site lies along the road to
Mengla, roughly five kilometers from Menglun. It was recently opened for tourists and has 50-100 visitors a day,
The Menglun Reserve is divided to three separate parts; western area, Wangzishan and limestone area, the latter
including the Green Stone Forest. The main vegetation types are tropical monsoon forest, monsoon forest over
limestone and subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest.
Menglun reserve has the lowest number of bird species (230) of all the Xishuangbanna reserves. However, during
a one-day survey, one of the highest numbers of bird species out of all reserves visited was recorded. The most
interesting bird species are Indian pied hornbill (Antracocercus coronatus) and black stork (Ciconia nigra). The
number of recorded mammals (53) is least of all the divisions but, because of the presence of gaur, tiger, leopard
and the highest number of primate species, it still has high significance.
There was a very high hunting pressure before guns were confiscated. Almost all bird and mammal species were
hunted, except elephants and gaur, and focused on Indian muntjac, wild boar and pheasants. Monkeys were also
caught for food and as pets. Hunting continues by trapping. Fishing is practiced using electricity or by draining
sections of the rivers.
There are seven villages within or adjacent to the reserve. Two were visited; Bakaxiaozhai and Medeng.
Bakaxiaozhai (Jinuo minority, 265 inhabitants, established 1970)
Located on the boundary of the western part of the reserve, six kilometers from Menglun. There are electricity
(1970s) and piped water (1985). There are 2.6 hectares of paddy per village but four hectares were lost to
floods in 1995. A third of the families experience food shortages for half the year. The main cash crops are rubber
trees, Amomum and passion fruits. The nearest primary school and health care services are nine kilometers away;
and healthcare services are available in Menglun.
Medeng (Aini minority, 350 inhabitants, established 1972)
Located on the boundary of the western part of the reserve, 10 km from Menglun. There are electricity (1994)
and piped water (1998). There are 10 hectares of paddy per village. Average income is 450 yuan/person/year,
which is below the official poverty line. The main cash crops are rubber trees and passion fruits. The reserve staff
have negative attitudes towards Amomum cultivation. Primary school and healthcare services are available in the
4.8.4. Mengla Reserve (900 km2)
Located in the southeast of Xishuangbanna prefecture, 170 kilometers from Jinghong (five hours by bus). The
main rivers are the Nanla and Huiganghe, both being tributaries of the Lancang. The reserve is divided into eastern
(Yaoqu) and western (Mengban) parts. There are 46 villages within or adjacent to the reserve. The chief tourist
attraction of Mengla is the Bepeng Aerial Skyway Park, located 20 kilometers north from Mengla town (45
minutes by bus). It has canopy walks, paved paths, a restaurant and some cottages for overnight accommodation
along the Nanla River.
The main forest types in the reserve are subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest and tropical monsoon forest.
According to the vegetation type map of Xishuangbanna, there are patches of tropical rainforest in the
northwestern part of the reserve, which were not visited. There are extensive areas of open forests and shrub land
along the boundaries, particularly in the eastern part. Species of special interest include Parashorea chinensis
(Dipterocarpaceae), an emergent tree up to 60 meters tall, Castanopsis mekongensis (Fagaceae), Podocarpus
imbricatus (Podocarpaceae) and a tree-fern Cyathea spinulosa (Cyatheaceae). All are rare species.
With 280 bird species Mengla is one of the most important bird reservoirs of Xishuangbanna. There are four
hornbills including rufus-necked and great hornbill. The reserve harbors 78 mammal species and has the greatest
diversity of mammal species of all the Xishuangbanna reserves. They include tiger, clouded leopard, bintarong
(Arctictis bintarong), red panda (Ailurus fulgens), lesser mouse deer (Tragulus javanicus), black gibbon and some
other primates. Hunting has been practiced in earlier times but not now. The river nearby one of the villages visited
was almost emptied of fish a few years ago by electricity. Fishing in the other river is practiced by netting.
Two villages were visited.
Huiganghe (Hani minority, 80 inhabitants, established 1976)
Located about 18 kilometers north of Mengla town, close to the Skyway Park on the eastern side of the
Huiganghe River. A road to the village is under construction. There is no electricity or piped water. There is 0.3
hectare of paddy per family. The main source of income is bean cultivation. The distance to the nearest school and
healthcare services is four kilometers.
Bubeng (Hani minority, 117 inhabitants, established 1970, administrative village)
Located 15 kilometers north of Mengla town along the road to the Mengban town. There are electricity (1990)
and piped water (1995). There is 0.1 hectare of paddy per person. The main cash crops are rubber trees, sugar
cane and Amomum. A primary school and healthcare services are available in the village.
4.8.5. Shangyong Reserve (305 km2)
Located in the southernmost part of Xishuangbanna prefecture along the border with Lao. The main river of the
reserve is the Nanman, a tributary of Nanla River. There is one village within and 13 others in adjacent areas.
There is a deficiency of land and food in all these villages. They are inhabited by ethnic minorities: Kucong, Yao,
Hani, Aini and Dai. Projects implemented by the local management bureau include introducing coffee and passion
fruit plantations, handicrafts, improving social welfare and technical support.
The main forest types in the reserve are tropical monsoon forest and subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest.
Additionally, there are bamboo forests along the eastern boundary. There are 246 bird species including four
hornbills and several pheasant species as well as Lord Derby’s parakeet (Psittacula derbiana). There are 70
mammal species including Asian elephant, tiger, wild dog (Cuon alpinus), smooth-coated otter (Lutra
perspicillata) and black gibbon. All species mentioned above are endangered or vulnerable under IUCN's threat
classification. Hunting has decreased but is still practiced by using birdlime. Butterflies are also collected. Fishing is
practiced by net and by draining sections of the river.
Three villages visited were located along the southeastern boundary of the reserve.
Balianzhai (Kuchong minority, 169 inhabitants, established 1987)
Located about 30 kilometers south of Mengla town. There is no electricity, but piped water exists (1994). The
average income is 200 yuan/person/year, which is below the official poverty line. There are 8 hectares of paddy
per village. The major cash crop is sugar cane, and there are also Amomum, rubber trees (too young to yield) and
watermelons that have been recently planted. There is a primary school but no health service. There were signs of
malnutrition among children in this village.
Longmen (mixed population; Hani, Dai and Yao minorities, 168 inhabitants, administrative village)
Located about 40 kilometers southwest of Mengla town. There are electricity (1992) and piped water (1986).
There are 23 hectares of paddy per village. An estimate of average income for 1999 is 1,200 yuan/person/year.
The main cash crops are sugar cane, rubber trees, Amomum, fruits and tea. There are primary and middle schools
as well as healthcare services (a new clinic).
Pinghe (Yao minority, 83 inhabitants)
Located about 41 kilometers southwest of Mengla. There are electricity (1992) and piped water (1985). There
are 8 hectares of paddy per village. Average income varies between 1,000-20,000 yuan/household/year. The
major cash crop is sugar cane. The villagers have planted some Amomum recently, and there is a coffee-planting
project. The village has rented out some land for orange cultivation (income 50,000 yuan). There are no school or
healthcare services in the village but they are available in Longmen village, one kilometer away.