Bawangling: Discover the beauty of Hainan’s tropical rainforest

By / HICN / Updated: 18:29,26-June-2022

A 2,600-year-old conifer, a 1,130-year-old safflower tree, a 680-year-old wild lychee tree... Hainan’s Bawangling National Forest Park, in Changjiang features dense forests, jumbled rocks, and many rare animals and plants. This is a rainforest like no other.

Bawangling is an important part of the Hainan Tropical Rainforest National Park. It is located in the southwest part of Hainan Island, bordering Baisha Li Autonomous County in the north and east, Changjiang Li Autonomous County in the west, and Dongfang City in the south. It covers an area of 1.285 million mu (almost 52 million hectares).

The third highest peak in Hainan - Macaque Ridge with an altitude of 1,654.8 meters, and the fourth highest peak in Hainan - Black Ridge with an altitude of 1,560 meters, are both found here. The Bawangling area of the Hainan South Tropical Rainforest National Park is highly biodiverse and is known as a “green treasure house” and species gene bank. The world's most endangered primate species, the Hainan Gibbon, is only found in Bawangling, and is listed as a National Class I Key Protected Animal.

Bawangling has three main scenic areas: Yajia Scenic Area, Baishi Lake, and the Yajia Waterfall. Yajia features rustic forest mountain paths, the waterfall, a riverbed covered in huge boulders, and many ancient trees. It has three boardwalks, named Love Road, Ba Road and Heaven Road, which offer ever-shifting views into the heart of the rainforest. The Baishi Lake Scenic Area also has boardwalks and ancient, gently leaning trees. Walking up the mountain along Love Road boardwalk, you will see the majestic Yajia Waterfall, and hear the endless roar of the majestic cascade.

At present, there are only 36 known Hainan Gibbons, who live in 5 family groups. These are the true original residents of Hainan Island. The gibbons are an indicator species for the integrity and authenticity of Hainan's tropical rainforest ecosystem, as well as being the great treasure of Bawangling.

The Bawangling area is also home to 416 species terrestrial vertebrates and 10 species of national-level protected animals which include the Hainan Gibbon, Hainan Eld's Deer, Peacock Pheasants, giant lizards, the Hainan Civet, the Small Civet, the Hainan Partridge, Yellow-billed Egrets, Pangolins, Clouded Leopards, and many more wild and wonderful creatures.

In addition to the many animal species, Bawangling is also chock-full of tropical plants. This is the only place the Yajia Pine, the Hainan Oil Fir Tree, and many other tree species grow. There are also many rare and famous trees, such as the ancient conifer mentioned above, a tree that’s been named the Wild Lychee King, and the deadly Poison Arrow Tree. A total of 2,523 species of wild vascular plants have been found in the area.

There are 8 National First-class Protected Plant species here, including Hainan Cycads, Gourd Cycads, Longwei Cycads, Hopea Hainanensis,  Woonyoungia (named after the famous botanist Chun Woon-Young), Yellow Calanthe, Cymbidium Insigne, and Paphiopedilum Appletonianum. There are 95 species of National Second-class Protected Plants, such as the Hainan Oil Fir and Green Plum Tree, more than 110 species of orchids, and 335 species of fungi.

The ancient Dacrydium conifer, which is worshiped by some as a tree god, is 2,600 years old and has a diameter of 2.3 meters. In addition, in 2017, the Chinese Society of Forestry selected 85 of China's most beautiful ancient trees, two of which grow in Bawangling, Hainan.

Wang Jinqiang has been working in the Bawangling area for more than 30 years. His family has lived in Bawangling since his father was very young. Wang’s father was a logger, and he became a forest ranger. His full-time work is keeping a watchful eye over the rare Hainan Gibbons.

As he has been working among forest trees for many years, he has developed a strong interest in forest plants. For this reason, he bought a book to study, and has become a Bawangling plant expert, able to tell tree species apart by looking at, touching, and smelling their bark or leaves.

"Look, this a the tree with fruit that Hainan Gibbons like to eat," Wang Jinqiang points out to Bawangling visitors. With the ecological environment getting better and better in the area in recent years, more and more species of fruit trees are available for the gibbons, and their population has been increasing steadily to the current number of 36. "I track the gibbons every day, and I hope that there will be more newborn gibbons as soon as possible," said Wang.


Photo source from Changjiang Li Autonomous County Tourism Commission Wechat

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