Slideshow Description: The slideshow is intended to ‘tell the story’ of the Wulingyuan (Zhangjiajie) Scenic and Historic Interest Area, through a portfolio of photos from a visit by Peter Howard in June 2017. The photos begin with scenes from the scenic walk along the Golden Whip Stream, with its deciduous forests, and towering pinnacles above. It is a hard one-hour climb from here to the top of the plateau where the best views of the rock towers and pinnacles are offered. More than 20 million visitors come to Wulingyuan annually, so the popular paths on the top of the plateau are extraordinarly crowded, and authorities are continuously enlarging and upgrading them. The visitor experience is far from tranquil, at least in the relatively restricted areas around the best view points where McDonalds, selfie sticks and tour group megaphones are the order of things. Away from the view sites, glimpses of the area’s rich biodiversity may be seen – butterflies, macaques, a huge diversity of plants, and Chinese giant salamanders. This is the world’s largest amphibian and at a length of 180 cm it really is a giant. The salamander photo is a captive specimen exhibited at the picturesque Baofeng Lake, in the lowlands, some distance from the spectacular peaks. The vivid green waters of the lake are set amongst densely forested hills and visitors are able to take a short boat trip here. The final part of the slideshow shows the Yellow Dragon Cave, with its massive chambers, underground river and spectacular collections of stalactites, stalagmites and other speleothems – most of which are illuminated in a variety of gaudy colours.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2014) the conservation status of this site is of ‘significant concern’. The IUCN report notes that ‘the integrity of the property generally, and its natural scenic and aesthetic values in particular, are currently threatened with reduction and loss to an unacceptable degree. Active intervention by management to date has alleviated the problems somewhat, but a much more concerted effort is required to mitigate serious loss of the natural attributes that constitute the outstanding universal value of the property. The principal management focus should be introduction of effective regulatory measures to reduce the excessive development of tourist facilities and to control the overcrowding due to a rapid and continuing increase in visitor numbers.
Management must also attend to the threats from air and water pollution, local community land and resource use practices, modification of waterways, and the increased incidence and intensity of flooding and landsliding, occurring both in the property and in the buffer zone.’