China is taking strides to ensure that endangered animals aren’t endangered for long. Plans are for 23 percent of the country’s total land area to be covered with forests by the end of the decade. While more green spaces certainly hold many benefits for humans, including cleaner air and positive effects on mental health, the new forests will also encourage the return of rare animals to habitats which they had previously fled.

According to Limin Feng, associate professor at Beijing Normal University, the newly-revitalized Ziwuling Forest (in the Shaanxi province) has seen an influx of rare animals, including “wild boars and roe deer, as well as small and medium-sized carnivorous animals such as ocelots and red foxes.” The forest also holds the largest population of North-Chinese leopards ever recorded in the region.

Scientists have documented 263 different species in the region, eight of which are critically endangered, and 29 are considered “threatened.” This resurgence of rare animals indicates major progress for a region that suffered significant deforestation. Feng said, “If it was not for the environmental protection we’ve undertaken, it’s likely none of these animals would have survived.”

These reforestation efforts are part of China’s larger goal to become a world leader in environmental protection. In October 2017, during the 19th Communist Party Congress, Chinese President Xi Jinping made clear that fighting climate change was one of the country’s top priorities. He said, “Any harm we inflict on nature will eventually return to haunt us… this is a reality we have to face.”

H/T: Inhabitat